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Multiple Sclerosis Health Center

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New MS Drug: Q&A

How Does Tecfidera Compare With Other MS Drugs?

What are the major side effects for each of these drugs? continued...

I'm told most of the flushing and the digestive effects only happen over the first month or two. After that, it decreases. If you take it with food, that is supposed to diminish the side effects.

The potential advantage that Tecfidera has over the other two drugs is that its active ingredient has been used in Germany for almost 20 years to treat psoriasis. But as with any drug, we have to see what happens when it's out in the real world [for treating MS].

Editor's note: An active ingredient similar to the one in Tecfidera has been linked to four cases of a rare but sometimes fatal brain disease , progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). That side effect has not been seen in patients taking Tecfidera, the manufacturer says. The four patients diagnosed with PML had additional risk factors. They include taking drugs that suppress your immune system or having prolonged periods of low white blood cell counts. In August 2013, the FDA said it was investigating a man in Europe who developed PML while taking Gilenya.

Why are these medicines only approved for relapsing MS and not for progressive MS?

Giesser: Most people who have MS have this relapsing-remitting form.

We don't have a good handle yet on all of the mechanisms that produce damage in progressive MS. It is much less understood.

Some of these newer medicines appear to have properties that may make them effective for progressive MS. In fact, they are being tested.

Why might my doctor decide to keep me on the medicine I'm taking and not switch me to the new medicines?

Giesser: If your doctor thinks your current medication is working, meaning that you are not having relapses and/or not having changes on your MRI, then he or she may say, 'Your medicine seems to be working.' If it ain't broke, don't fix it type thing.

Some doctors are pretty conservative. They may want to wait a little bit to see how the [new] medicines behave.

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