Good News If You Have Multiple Sclerosis: Generic Medication

Study finds it is equally effective, safe

Vials and Syringe

Updated 4/17/2015

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For people with multiple sclerosis (MS), medications are often costly. The good news is that as patents expire, it opens the possibility for generic versions to become available. Generic medications are cheaper for consumers, and that’s a big help. But they also must be equally safe and effective.

In the case of the first generic version of Copaxone® (glatiramer acetate injection), a widely-used name brand medication for MS, researchers wanted to find out. A new study showed promising results for the generic version, says Jeff Cohen, MD, a neurologist and principal investigator in this study.

“The study showed that the generic version of Copaxone, the drug glatiramer acetate, was equivalent,” he says.

Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the drug to treat patients with relapsing forms of MS.

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Generic drug comparable, equally safe

Dr. Cohen and his team of researchers tested the effects of generic glatiramer acetate on nearly 800 people.

They used MRI to determine if the generic version was comparable at inhibiting brain-lesion activity. Researchers also checked the generic medication’s effectiveness at controlling relapses and other disability changes.

Dr. Cohen says what they found was that the generic not only has comparable effectiveness, but it is equally safe. He says the next step will be to complete the extended follow-up on the safety and efficacy of the drug, but he added the initial results are encouraging.

“We think these are very interesting results and hopefully will lead to the availability of generic versions of multiple sclerosis medications, which could lead to significant cost-savings,” Dr. Cohen says.

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MS medications are quite expensive and a major contributor to the cost of caring for the disease, and often are not covered or not fully covered [by insurance],” he adds.

Next steps

After the next round of tests, the medication will be considered for regulatory approval. Dr. Cohen hopes the generic version will be available sometime next year.

“As these medications start to come off patent, there is the opportunity to develop and hopefully get approval for generic versions which could save cost,” Dr. Cohen says.

He presented these findings at a joint meeting between the American Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis and the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis in September 2014.

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