Healthy Living: First Oral Drug For MS

Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects about 400-thousand Americans. The body's immune system turns on itself and attacks the brain. Until now — patients had to rely on injections for help. But now, as Robyn Haines reports, the very first oral medication for MS has patients talking. It's today's Healthy Living.


Lisa Adams and Lizette Garcia were both diagnosed with MS in the prime of their lives. It's a disease that slowly robs patients of their ability to walk, see and even think clearly. For years, the only treatments for patients with MS had to be injected. Now, the FDA has approved the first oral treatment, called Gilenya.


In MS, the body's immune system attacks myelin — a substance that protects nerves. Gilenya works by holding certain immune cells in the lymph nodes — so they can't reach the myelin. In clinical studies, Gilenya reduced MS relapses by 54-percent compared to a placebo and by 52-percent compared to another common injectable drug. But some say doctors should be cautious when prescribing the oral medication.


Gilenya can also cause serious side effects like slowed heart rate, liver problems, headaches and a build-up of fluid in the eye. Currently, there are four other oral medications in the final phase of clinical trial testing that could become FDA approved soon. One interesting fact about MS — Doctor Dunn says the closer you live to the equator, the less at risk you are for the disease.