Multiple Sclerosis (MS) - Medications
multiple sclerosis (MS) may be used:
- During a
relapse, to make the attack shorter and less
- Over a long period of time, to alter the natural course of
the disease (disease-modifying drugs or DMDs).
- To control specific
symptoms as they occur.
Controlling a relapse
These medicines can shorten a
sudden relapse and help you feel better sooner. They have not been shown
to affect the long-term course of the disease or to prevent disability.
Strong evidence suggests that MS is caused by the
immune system causing
inflammation and attacking nerve cells and myelin, which is the protective coating
surrounding the nerve fibers. Medicines that change the way the immune system works can reduce the number and severity of attacks that damage the nerves and myelin.
For people who have
relapsing-remitting MS, disease-modifying therapy can reduce
the number and severity of relapses. It may also delay disability in some people. Some of these medicines may also delay
disease progression and reduce relapses in some people who have
secondary progressive MS.
The most commonly used disease-modifying therapies are:
- Interferon beta (such as Betaseron), for clinically isolated syndrome (first MS attack), relapsing-remitting MS, and secondary progressive MS.
(Copaxone), for clinically isolated syndrome and relapsing-remitting MS.
Other disease-modifying medicines may also be used for relapsing-remitting MS. These medicines are available as pills that you take by mouth. They include:
And other disease-modifying medicines may be used if the medicines above haven't worked or when MS is getting worse. They include:
- Mitoxantrone (Novantrone), for relapsing-remitting MS
that is rapidly getting worse or when other medicines for MS have not worked. It can also delay the progression of secondary progressive MS.
relapsing forms of MS when other medicines for MS have not worked.
There is no effective disease-modifying treatment for
primary progressive MS.
Some people have
only one episode of a neurological symptom such as
optic neuritis. Yet
MRI or other tests suggest that these people have MS. This is known
as a clinically isolated syndrome. Many of these people go on to develop MS
over time. In most cases, doctors will prescribe medicine for people who have had a clinically isolated syndrome.
These medicines, when taken early or even before you have been diagnosed with
MS, may keep the disease from getting worse or extend your time without
Treating specific symptoms can
be effective, even if it doesn't stop the progression of the disease. Symptoms
that can often be controlled or relieved with medicine include: