News in brief: ANZAN vaccine guidance for MS patients; Dementia warning for sports concussion; New treatment listed for relapsing MS

Multiple sclerosis

16 Mar 2021

ANZAN guidance on COVID-19 vaccine timing for people with MS

The Australian and New Zealand Association of Neurologists (ANZAN) has developed COVID-19 vaccination guidance and FAQs for people living with MS. The guidance, developed in conjunction with MS Research Australia, states that all people with MS over 16 should have COVI19 vaccination and there is no reason to think that any of the vaccines pose a risk for people with MS or are likely to trigger a relapse.

The guidance acknowledges that immunosuppressive therapies may reduce the effectiveness of vaccination and provides the following advice on timing of vaccination in relation to treatment:

“For those on intermittent immunosuppressive therapies (e.g. ocrelizumab, alemtuzumab, cladribine) it would be sensible to ensure that your vaccinations are completed several weeks prior to your treatment and avoid being vaccinated for several months afterwards.

“This is in order to maximise the effectiveness of the vaccine and avoid any overlap of side-effects which might cause confusion, rather than because of any safety concerns. For natalizumab, avoiding vaccination during the week of your infusion would be wise simply to avoid confusion over any side effects. “

For all other treatments timing of vaccination should be determined by availability of the vaccine.

Minor head injuries make people vulnerable to dementia symptoms

Sports governing bodies are being urged to take heed of new research showing that mild concussion head injuries in early and middle life – such as those sustained in contact sports – contribute to decline on cognitive function and worsening dementia.

A UK study of more than 500 people at the age of 70 found that those who had experienced a serious head injury more than 15 years earlier performed worse than expected on cognitive tests for attention and quick thinking and also had smaller brain volumes (by 1%) and differences in brain microstructural integrity.

The study investigators from the UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology said their findings showed that repeated head injuries – sufficient to cause a loss of consciousness – did not did not appear to contribute to brain damage characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease, but did have tangible effects on dementia symptoms.

The findings are published in Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology.

New MS treatment listed by TGA

A disease modifying therapy, ofatumumab (Kesimpta), has been approved by the TGA for the treatment of adult patients with relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (RMS) to delay the progression of physical disability and reduce the frequency of relapse.

Ofatumumab is an anti-CD20 antibody that causes depletion of the B-cells that play an important role in MS pathogenesis due to production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.

Marketed by Novartis, ofatumumab is given once per month, via injection using a special injector known as a Sensoready Pen (a patient-friendly autoinjector pen).

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