Gilenya (Fingolimod) the First Oral Pill to Treat MS - My Experience
The First Oral Pill Approved by the FDA
I have been waiting for this moment for years-an oral pill to treat MS! Gilenya (Fingolimod) is the first of the oral drugs to receive FDA approval. Unfortunately this oral pill does not come without serious risks. It is easy to be hesitant to try a drug that demands so much in the way of screenings and examinations.
Beginning the Process
Although Gilenya is a pill there are a surprising number of steps that must be followed just to discover if you can give the drug a trial run.
The doctor has to okay the switch. Immediately I had to read, sign, and date what appeared to be a mini-medical release. the wording of the release was the first indication that this was no ordinary pill. The next indication came when I was giving a list of referals for the specialists I needed to see before the drug therapy could begin. These screenings were to clear me for conditions that could be worsened by the drug therapy. A dermatologist for a skin-cancer screening; a pulmonologist for a lung analysis; (This includes a lot of breathing in and out so prepare to get a little dizzy.) an ophthalmologist to screen for macular degeneration; and a representative of Novartis who will draw some blood and gave me an echo cardio gram. Upon signing the necessary paperwork I was told to expect a call from Gilenya as my next step
The Gilenya support program used a pier level approach. The company called and my nurse introduced herself and set up my initial appointment for your initial assessment with the medical staff at the Concentra Center closest to my home.
A Surprising Delay
Gilenya and the nurse advocate moved so swiftly that I was not prepared for the delay that occurs between the time the screenings are preformed and the time it takes my neurologist to clear me for my first dose. Getting in to see all the specialist was the smoothest part of the process. All the necessary tests were completed in one month.
Back to the Screening Process
A nurse drew blood for lab tests including
- VZV antibody serology
- Liver transaminases
An ECG was performed to document my heart's general condition. The results were faxed to the Gilenya Support Program and my nurse navigator, and to my doctor.
The Gilenya Room
Novartis Pharmaceuticals established a center for patients to be observed for the first dose taken. The Concentra centers are an important aspect of the Gilenya Support Program. I was shown what I name the "Gilenya Room". It contained a DVD player, a reclining chair, a mini-refrigerator, and a snack container.
The initial dose was taken under the supervision of a Concentra physician and I was observed for six hours. I was asked to stand up frequently to keep my heart beat from slowing down.
Every Concentra Center is not the same, some have televisions, some are not WIFI compatible, and some may offer more amenities.
Cost of Gilenya
It comes as no surprise that Gilenya (fingolimod) comes with a very expensive price tag. Since the drug has the FDA's approval, your medical insurance may cover the drug but deductibles may vary. On average Gilenya costs a little over $5,300 per month. The dosage: one pill per day.