PITTSBURGH (Ivanhoe Newswire/WTVM) -- About 400,000 Americans are living with multiple sclerosis. Ten thousand new cases are diagnosed every year. MS is a disease of the central nervous system. Among other things, it can cause pain and fatigue, and problems with vision and movement. Those symptoms can get progressively worse. A newly-approved therapy that may help some patients put the brakes on the disease.
For 48 year-old David DeMay, golf is not only a passion; it's good therapy.
"Balance, motor skills, eye hand control," DeMay explains.
Sixteen years ago, DeMay was diagnosed with MS.
"The initial pain and going blind in one eye freaks you out a bit," says DeMay.
Most of his vision returned, but despite trying four different drugs over the years, nothing was really working to stop his symptoms.
That's when Thomas Scott, Neurologist for Allegheny Health Network, recommended DeMay try a new therapy called Lemtrada.
"You'll be able to continue to walk the way you do now, function the way you do now, and we won't lose any further ground with your disease," Dr. Scott says.
Lemtrada is given to patients as an infusion. The drug works by targeting the proteins in white blood cells that are involved in MS. Dr. Scott says Lemtrada might also help reverse symptoms in patients who have recently worsened.
"We can expect to turn the clock back three months, six months, maybe a year if we're lucky," Dr. Scott explains. "In a very brief period of time, a number of symptoms got significantly better."
DeMay was an avid runner before his diagnosis. Now, he's focusing on maintaining his mobility.
"Is the glass half-empty or half full? I'm just glad there's something in the glass," says DeMay.
Lemtrada was FDA -approved last year for MS patients who have failed to see any remission with other therapies. Dr. Scott says 70 percent of the patients who were on Lemtrada for clinical trials are still in remission five years later.