For people living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), difficulty swallowing – a common symptom of the disease – can cause challenges with taking oral medications. This can be especially of concern when it comes to taking riluzole – one of the only approved treatments for ALS. Riluzole is a benziothole derivative which has been indicated to extend life or the time to mechanical ventilation for some people with ALS. The medication is commonly available as a tablet, sold under the brand name Rilutek®, and a liquid suspension, known as Tiglituk®.
These methods of administration require that a person either has the ability to comfortably swallow a pill or liquid, or they must be consumed via a feeding tube. However, a third option recently became available in the U.S. with the announcement that Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma America, Inc. (MTPA) has launched Exservan™ (riluzole), an oral film formulation of riluzole.
"People with ALS can develop difficulty swallowing, affecting how certain medications are administered," said Atsushi Fujimoto, the President of MTPA in a press release. "Patients are the primary focus of our work as we try to make a difference, and we are pleased to bring this new option to those suffering from this devastating and progressive disease."
Exservan was approved by the FDA in November 2019 after a study demonstrated that the oral film could deliver similar levels of medication to the bloodstream as an oral tablet. The oral film is taken twice a day, without food or liquids, by placing on the tongue and allowing to dissolve.
People living with ALS who are interested in taking Exservan should consult their healthcare providers. Before taking Exservan™, or any other form of riluzole, make sure to let your doctor know any other medications you may be taking, if you have any history of liver problems, or if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or plan to become pregnant.
Those interested in adding Exservan to their treatment regimen will have need to address some special considerations around insurance and procuring the drug. It is available through a single specialty pharmacy, PANTHERx Rare Pharmacy. To receive a prescription, patients will need to ask their healthcare provider to submit a Prescription and Enrollment form to PANTHERx, after which they will be contacted by a representative to review insurance coverage and obtaining the drug. However, those who have been prescribed riluzole through the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, the Department of Defense, or other federal institutions will not need to coordinate their prescription through PANTHERx, they should obtain the therapy through their healthcare providers as with their other medications. For those who may need help paying for the drug, an Exservan Out-of-Pocket Assistance Program is also available for eligible, commercially-insured patients.
For more information about Exservan, and to get in touch about receiving a prescription, visit Exservan.com. Learn more about riluzole and other ALS treatments here.