Dr. Neil Ellis Treats Spinal Muscular Atrophy Patient with Spinraza

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Dr. Neil Ellis - PPOA Tampa-Habana administers Spinraza for SMA

Pain Management Specialists a Good Choice to Inject Spinraza –

Dr. Neil Ellis changes lives every day as a pain management specialist with Physician Partners of America’s Tampa – Habana clinic. A serendipitous phone call created a diversion that is allowing him to change lives outside the pain management realm.

He was recently called upon to administer a new medication called Spinraza to a patient who lives with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). A relatively rare and progressive genetic disease, SMA causes the body to contort and become unable to hold up the torso. Patients gradually lose motor function in the lower and sometimes upper torso.

“Spinraza helps with changing the way genetics are programming a specific type of protein sequence and helps these patients gain muscular strength back,” Dr. Ellis says. “While a patient who is unable to walk will not regain that ability, he or she will be able to operate a motorized wheelchair more effectively.”

The patient, Ben Carpenter, 24, of Orlando, understands Spinraza won’t reverse the progression of the disease he was born with, but he already feels a difference.

“It has improved my grip strength, I can hold my head up a lot more and I have more energy during the day,” says Carpenter, a mechanical engineer.

Spinraza is a new and extremely costly medication developed specifically for SMA. Not every physician is able to administer it successfully, as the contorted body and orthopedic hardware make the spine difficult to inject.

“A lot of the patients had extensive hardware placed often at very young age to help with trunk strength,” says Dr. Ellis. “There’s an element of bony overgrowth and ton of metal that has been present for a long part of their life, so accessing any of this can be quite tricky.”

The medication is delivered intrathecally; that is, injected into the fluid surrounding the spinal canal. Although Dr. Ellis had not treated a spinal muscular atrophy patient before, intrathecal drug delivery is a common procedure for interventional pain management specialists. He seized the opportunity to help.

So far, it has been successful. “Once you’ve done it, you can mimic the technique on future patients. Each patient is unique, of course, with unique anatomical challenges, but each has the same characteristics.”

Carpenter received four high “loading” doses of Spinraza every two weeks for about three months. He is about to get the first of quarterly “maintenance” doses that he will need for the rest of his life.

Spinraza Treatment in Tampa

“I never thought they’d find a treatment in my lifetime,” says Carpenter. “I am so grateful to Dr. Ellis and the team at Habana. They’ve been fantastic to work with.”

Spinraza is most successful in young children. The therapeutic expectations for adult SMA patients represents a huge range of results, but the result can be greater muscle strength or a slowing of the condition’s progression.

“They may be able to use their arms and can operate a power chair, or hold up their head better,” says Dr. Ellis. “If you can give them enough strength so they can navigate their way through their environment, they can have a more normal life.”

“I never thought they’d find a treatment in my lifetime,” says Carpenter. “I am so grateful to Dr. Ellis and the team at Habana. They’ve been fantastic to work with.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marie Hickman

Marie Hickman is the Social Media and Content Specialist for Physician Partners of America. Headquartered in Tampa, Fla., Physician Partners of America (PPOA) is a fast-growing national healthcare company committed to combatting the opioid crisis through interventional pain management. Founded in 2013 with three employees, it has rapidly grown to more than 500, and manages a wide range of medical practices.

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