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Published as a special resource from the Nancy Davis Foundation for MS and WebMD.

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:

  • Aubagio (teriflumonide)
  • Avonex (interferon beta-1a)
  • Betaseron (interferon beta-1b)
  • Copaxone (glatiramer acetate)
  • Gilenya (fingolimod)
  • Novantrone (mitoxantrone)
  • Rebif (interferon beta-1a)
  • Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate)
  • Tysabri (natalizumab)

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

 

Betaseron (interferon beta-1b)
  Use: Treatment of relapsing forms of MS
  How administered: Injection under the skin
  Frequency of use: Every other day
  Common side effects: Mild flu-like symptoms
  Support Program: MS Pathways 800-788-1467

 

Copaxone (glatiramer acetate)
  Use: Treatment of relapsing-remitting MS
  How administered: Injection under the skin
  Frequency of use: Three times per week
  Common side effects: Reaction at the injection site
  Support Program: Shared Solutions 800-887-8100

 

Gilenya (fingolimod)
  Use: Treatment of relapsing MS
  How administered: A pill by mouth
  Frequency of use: Daily
  Common side effects: headache, diarrhea, back pain, and abnormal liver tests

 

Novantrone (mitoxantrone)
  Use: Treatment of rapidly worsening relapsing-remitting MS

and for progressive-relapsing or secondary-progressive forms of MS
  How administered: By IV
  Frequency of use: Once every 3 months or four times a year. Maximum dose 8-12 doses
  Common side effects: Nausea, hair thinning, decreased white blood cell count
  Support Program: MS LifeLines 877-447-3243

Nancy Davis Foundation For MS

The foundation is dedicated to the treatment and ultimate cure of MS. Funding research is the core focus of the foundation. Their annual MS Forum & Expo on May 8th featured top MS doctors discussing the latest advances in MS research and patient care.