The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved its first biosimilar to treat multiple sclerosis. The drug, known as AV 650, is a biosimilar to a medication called Rebif, a generic interferon beta-1a treatment.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a degenerative neurological disorder that affects an estimated 2.3 million people worldwide. The disorder affects the protective coating around nerves, which helps transmit signals throughout the body, and can cause physical, cognitive, and emotional impairments. Until now, peace of mind for MS patients has been limited to prescription drugs like Rebif, which work to reduce symptoms – but may also have negative side effects – and supportive therapies that are equally important for living a healthy life.

AV 650 has undergone rigorous scientific testing to ensure its efficacy and safety. The drug is proven to be “highly similar” to Rebif and has minor differences in a few inactive ingredients. The FDA found that the two drugs met strict standards for being a biosimilar, meaning their safety and effectiveness is not compromised.

For patients, this is a big win: it potentially expands the options available to those looking to treat their condition. AV 650 is the first biosimilar approved by the FDA to prevent relapses and to reduce new and existing lesions in people with relapsing forms of MS, which is the most common type of the disorder.

At present, AV 650 is mostly available at long-term care facilities. However, if patients can’t obtain access through their healthcare provider, they may be able to acquire it through specialty pharmacies. Ultimately, patients should consult their healthcare provider for advice on which treatment is best for their situation.

The approval of AV 650 marks an important milestone for MS sufferers, who often are left with limited avenues of treatment options. With a potentially more affordable option, plus its proven effectiveness and safety compared to Rebif, AV 650 is a welcome addition to the MS treatment landscape.

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