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Multiple Sclerosis: Drug Treatments

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A number of drugs have been shown to slow the progression of MS in some people. These are called the disease-modifying drugs. They include:

How Do These Drugs Work?

All of these drugs work by suppressing, or altering, the activity of the body's immune system. Thus, these therapies are based on the theory that MS is, at least in part, a result of an abnormal response of the body's immune system that causes it to attack the myelin surrounding nerves.

Do the Drugs Cure MS?

These drugs do not cure MS, but they do reduce the frequency and severity of attacks and the development of new brain lesions. In addition, they slow down the progression of MS, reducing future disability.

These drugs can improve the quality of life for many people with MS. Therefore, most doctors suggest that treatment with one of these drugs be started in most people as soon as a diagnosis of relapsing-remitting MS has been made.

Is Drug Treatment Right for Me?

The decision concerning whether or when to begin treatment with one of these medications is best made by you and your doctor. Factors that should be considered include potential side effects, benefits, frequency, method of medication delivery, and your personal concerns, priorities and lifestyle.

The most important goal is to find a treatment you can use comfortably and consistently. Each pharmaceutical company offers customer support and may also provide some financial assistance for qualifying individuals without prescription drug coverage.

Here's what you need to know about the most commonly used MS drugs.

Aubagio (teriflunomide)
Use: Treatment of relapsing forms of MS.
How administered: a tablet by mouth
Frequency of use: Daily
Common side effects:Diarrhea, liver problems, nausea, hair loss
Support Program: 855-MSOne2One (855-676-6326)

Avonex (interferon beta-1a)
Use: Treatment of relapsing forms of MS, and to treat after an initial episode of inflammation
How administered: Injection into a muscle
Frequency of use: Weekly
Common side effects: Mild flu-like symptoms
Support Program: MS Active Source 800-456-2255
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