Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) was approved as a new treatment for Multiple Sclerosis in March of 2017. It is an infusion that patients have every six months, aside from the first two doses (which are one-half, two weeks apart). As one of the hot new medications on the market, a lot of patients are showing interest in switching to this treatment. Before you make the switch, take a minute to learn what you can expect at your first infusion.
Prior to scheduling your infusion
Ocrevus is an infusion that patients have every six months, aside from the first two doses. On your first visit you will receive half of the full dose and will get the other half dose 2 weeks later. Prior to scheduling your infusion make sure you have completed all required bloodwork and that you have an up-to-date MRI on file. Ocrevus also has a co-pay program that you can sign up for but you’ll need to do that and be accepted BEFORE your first infusion. Your doctor should take care of talking to your insurance company to get you approved, but while you’re waiting on approval make sure to take this time to ask your doctor any questions you may have about Ocrevus, potential side effects and what the mechanism of action is.
Infusion center dos and don’ts
Infusion centers can be very different from site to site but there are a few standard common courtesies you should be aware of.
Bring things to keep you entertained
Wear headphones if you’re listening to music or watching a movie
Read the body language of those around you, they may or may not want to talk
Take phone calls
Have loud conversations
Watch videos or play music without headphones
Monopolize the time of the nurses with small talk
What to bring
If you’ve been trying to fit some “me time” into your life, now is that time! Bring your laptop because most infusion centers do have WiFi, a book or some needlework. Anything you can do while sitting for a few hours is fair game! I’d also recommend bringing some snacks, a water bottle, phone/computer chargers, and a blanket and/or pillow. Many centers have blankets and pillows but having your own is always nice.
Before the infusion starts
Once you’ve checked-in and gotten to your chair there’s a laundry list of things to do before you start actually infusing your medication. You’ll need to get your temperature and blood pressure checked, and if you’re a woman of child birthing age, they may require you to take a pregnancy test. Each infusion center is different but you can expect some version of the following: a nurse will start your IV, they will give you Tylenol to take orally, an IV steroid, IV Benadryl and a saline flush, all in order to help ward off any potential side effects. Then you’ll wait 30 minutes before they start the infusion.
What to expect during your first infusion
Your can expect your first and second infusion visits to last about 5-6 hours. By now, your Benadryl is probably kicking in so you might just be napping instead of playing with all the fun things you brought. The nurse will check your temperature and blood pressure every 15 minute to every half hour. It seems like they’re always waking you up for some vitals. Once the Ocrevus is running, it’s pretty smooth sailing from here. You may get cold with a cold liquid running through your veins, which is where the blanket comes in handy but that should be the worst of it.
Once you’ve completed your infusion, the nurses may ask you to stay an hour after so they can monitor your vitals. Some people have reported itching, scratch throats or a rash during or after the infusion, but in most cases the Benadryl and Tylenol keep those at bay. Over the next two weeks you may experience a headache or some vertigo, but most patients see that subside quickly over time.
Do it all over again!
In two weeks you’ll be back at it again. The same process as the first time but now you’re more prepared! Make sure to set up your second infusion appointment before you leave your first appointment because the timing of your first two infusions is important. You want to try to get as close to two weeks as possible. At the end of your second appointment, you should get your six month infusion in the books.
Follow up in 3 months
Each neurologist handles follows-up appointments differently but you can expect to have a follow-up appointment about three months after your second infusion. Your doctor will ask how you’re doing, if you have any side effects to report and will run more blood work.
Full dose in 6 months
The greatest part about Ocrevus is that from here on out, forever and ever, your infusions will be six months apart. That’s only two per year! The only thing that will be different in the future is that you will receive the full dose at each appointment. Hopefully you’re experience is easy peasy and you’re feeling great. Remember to always talk to your doctor if you’re feeling unusual post your infusion.