News, Your Health Seth Stratton | 6 years ago

New Drug Helps Man With MS Get Back on His Feet

Fed up and frustrated. That’s how Cesar Bustos describes his life with multiple sclerosis (MS) before he started taking alemtuzumab, a drug recently approved by the FDA to treat the disease.


The Neurosciences Institute at Carolinas HealthCare System is the first healthcare provider in North and South Carolina to offer the new drug. Bustos, 48, of Charlotte, says the difference is dramatic. He no longer needs a walker – a cane is just fine and sometimes he can walk without it – and the vision in his eye is returning. So far so good,” Bustos says. “I’m very pleased with it.” “Patients are very excited for this drug, as the MS community has been waiting a long time for a medication that offers benefit for our patients with more aggressive MS,” says Donna Graves, MD, a neurologist with Carolinas HealthCare System. “This is the first drug for MS that has shown improvement in disability for patients.” Bustos and his physician were giving up hope on improving his aggressive form of MS. “My doctor referred me to Dr. Graves and I’m glad he did,” says Bustos. “As soon as I met her, she mentioned the new drugs that were out. I said I was all for it.” MS can cause many symptoms, including blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, tremors, numbness, extreme fatigue, problems with memory and concentration, paralysis, and blindness. This chronic disease of the central nervous system, made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves, is unpredictable. For unknown reasons, the body’s immune system begins to attack healthy nerve tissues. Dr. Graves says the drug has demonstrated benefits in terms of stabilizing the disease, reducing the risk of relapse or worsening. An MRI determines the severity of the disease based on the number of lesions seen during a scan. Patients treated with this new drug were less likely to have new MS lesions. Lesion after lesion is what frustrated Bustos, and nothing seemed to help until now. “All the medications were not working and I was getting shots every other day and still I couldn’t even walk,” he says. Bustos was diagnosed with MS when he was 45, but feels like he had been experiencing symptoms for as long as 10 years. “I lost my vision in one of my eyes, and when I went to the doctor he said I think you may have MS,” Bustos says. “A spinal tap proved the diagnosis.” When he started losing his balance and equilibrium, that’s when his doctor sent him to Dr. Graves. “Every day I feel the improvements,” he says. Currently, 15 patients from Carolinas HealthCare System are getting the drug given as a series of five infusions over a year. Dr. Graves and her team evaluate patients on a number measures, including physical exams, quality of life and cognitive function, to get a better idea of how the drug is affecting their overall health. The drug has many side effects including ones that can cause other problems to crop up in the body’s immune system. Bustos’ goal is to go back to work. “I worked in the body shop at NASCAR,” he says. “I see Dr. Graves every couple of months for evaluation and my goal is to get back to driving so I can get back to work. I would love to go back to work.”