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Monday, December 1, 2014
LEMTRADA (Alemtuzumab) makes history (in Cullman, AL.) as the 11th MS Disease Modifying Medications being used in the USA
December 1, 2014
CULLMAN, Alabama - Today in a treatment room in the basement of a small medical building, Leah Quartano, 27, lay on her back as a newly approved drug dripped into a vein.
By getting infused with Lemtrada in this town 50 miles north of Birmingham, the New Orleans resident was making history of sorts.
She is one of six multiple sclerosis patients in the U.S. -- all in Cullman under the care of Dr. Christopher LaGanke -- to first get the drug, also known as alemtuzumab, outside of clinical trials.
Although approved in 40 countries for MS treatment, the drug was surprisingly rejected earlier this year for use in the United States where there are an estimated 400,000 with the disease.
LaGanke and longtime patient Katy Mena-Berkley -- both of whom lost their mothers to MS -- spoke out strongly against the rejection. The FDA agreed to reconsider several months later and approved it Nov. 14.
The patients today will be doing the infusion therapy six hours a day, for five straight days. Then she will come back in a year and do it again for three days.
After that: maybe no more treatments whatsoever. No more pills, self-injections, infusions every month or week.
"Absolute freedom," said Quartano, a New Orleans resident who was diagnosed while a student at Auburn University. "That's the best way to describe it. It will be like having a normal life."
"We're not saying it is a cure for MS, but for 70 percent, it is a 5-year cure."
That is the hope and promise anyway.
LaGanke has been conducting clinical trials for years.
For that reason, he was set up and ready to go when the Food and Drug Administration approved Lemtrada a couple of weeks ago, and received the first certification in the country to administer the drug.
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