Big government shouldn’t stand between MS patients and promising new treatment options

Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

It’s a nightmare scenario that almost one million Americans are forced to face on a daily basis. The symptoms range from pain and fatigue to problems with thinking, learning, and planning, depression and anxiety, and speech and swallowing issues, among other difficulties. When faced with a diagnosis of the still un-cured Multiple Sclerosis (MS), treatment options for Americans are unfortunately limited by the shortsighted and antiquated thinking that unfortunately is still prevalent in the domestic medical community.

President Trump understood this, and that was a major reason why America established ‘Right to Try’ legislation to circumvent detached and egotistical bureaucrats that tend to only act when personally affected by debilitating disease. 

Currently, among the most widely employed methods of battling MS include the use of Corticosteroids like oral prednisone and intravenous methylprednisolone, that are prescribed to subdue nerve inflammation, and Plasma exchange or plasmapheresis, which involves separating the patient’s plasma from their blood cells and then mixing it with a protein solution before putting it back into the body. 

There are other treatments options available to modify the progression of the disease which includes disease-modifying therapy (DMT) in the form of medicines like Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate), Tysabri (natalizumab), and Copaxone (glatiramer acetate injection). Although it is another option, individuals that receive this treatment are only slightly less likely to progress verses those that are untreated and, in many cases, DMT can actually exacerbate symptoms.

One option that is gaining steam for its ability to provide patients relief is known as autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (aHSCT), a procedure that utilizes a patient’s own stem cells to treat certain blood cancers. According to a 2019 randomized clinical trial titled “Effect of Nonmyeloablative Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation vs Continued Disease-Modifying Therapy on Disease Progression in Patients With Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS),” only 15% of RRMS patients had a relapse five years after bring treated with aHSCT, verses 85% of those randomized to a DMT. Additionally, only about 10% of participants experienced a progression of the disease in the five years after aHSCT, compared with 75% on DMTs.

These revelations represent some the best news to come along in some time for the unfortunate victims of Multiple Sclerosis and a more than promising medical breakthrough. Unfortunately, MS patients looking to leverage this newer treatment option are met with several obstacles that make obtaining a round of aHSCT virtually impossible. 

The truth is, the United States is leading from behind on Stem cell research. Although it is legal, there are several restrictions related to its funding and use. Individual state laws regarding stem cells research vary widely, but that is more in relation to the controversial use of embryonic stem cells. Eight states (California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York) currently encourage embryonic stem cell research, while states like South Dakota forbids research using embryos. It is the use of embryonic stem cells that has unfortunately given a negative connotation to the practice of stem cell therapy as a whole, but existing therapy options using one’s own stem cells presents no such conflicts.

Another major obstacle is cost. The aHSCT treatment carries about a $150,000 price tag for patients not covered by insurance. Most US insurers will also try their best to avoid approving the treatment, and the long appeals process can potentially lead customers into transitioning into the more chronic form of MS.

These are unacceptable and dangerous business practices that MS patients unfortunately face as the big pocketed and taxpayer subsidized American health insurance industry’s antiquated protocols force patients to seek out care internationally, in countries where stem cell therapy is regulated and readily available. 

This is wholly unacceptable in the first world in 2022. The time has come destigmatize stem cell treatments using a patient’s own stem cells. These stem cell treatments benefit everyone from MS patients, to professional athletes and everyday Americans dealing with everything from a creaky knee to chronic pain. In fact, the potential for a longer life and better quality of life exists with these treatments, and its now time that government regulators recognize that and stay out of they way of what may represent the biggest medical breakthrough for Americans suffering with MS and a potential life extending vehicle.

Julio Rivera is a business and political strategist, the Editorial Director for Reactionary Times, and a political commentator and columnist. His writing, which is focused on cybersecurity and politics, has been published by numerous websites and he is regularly seen on National and International news programming.


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