Medications for Multiple Sclerosis

Many medications can slow down MS in some people. Doctors call them disease-modifying drugs. They include:

How Do They Work?

All of these drugs work by holding back or changing how your body's immune system works. These treatments are based on the fact that MS happens, at least in part, because of a mistake your immune system makes that causes it to attack the coating around your nerves, known as myelin.

Do They Cure MS?

These medications don’t cure MS, but they do lower the number of attacks, make them less severe, and prevent new brain lesions. They also slow down MS.

Is Drug Treatment Right for Me?

These medications can improve the quality of life for many people with MS. Your doctor will probably suggest you start taking one as soon as you’re diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS.

Things to consider include side effects they might cause, benefits of taking them, how often you take them, how you take them, and your personal concerns, priorities, and lifestyle.

The goal is to find a treatment you can use comfortably and consistently. Each drug company offers customer support and may also give financial help to some people without prescription drug coverage.

Here's what you need to know about some of the treatments for MS.

Alemtuzumab ( Lemtrada)

  • What it treats: Relapsing forms of MS
  • How you take it: Through an IV infusion
  • How often: 5 days in a row, then 3 days in a row a year later
  • Common side effects: Rash, headache, fever, stuffy nose, nausea, joint pain
  • Support program : 855-676-6326

Cladribine (Mavenclad)

  • What it treats: Relapsing and secondary progressive forms of MS
  • How you take it: A pill by mouth
  • How often: 4-5 days, then 4-5 days about a month later. After 1 year, this is repeated.
  • Common side effects: Headaches, low white blood cell counts, infections
  • Support program : 877-447-3243

Dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera)

  • What it treats: Relapsing forms of MS
  • How you take it: A pill by mouth
  • How often: Twice daily
  • Common side effects: Flushing, stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
  • Support program : 800-456-2255

Continued

Fingolimod (Gilenya)

  • :What it treats: Relapsing MS
  • How you take it: A pill by mouth
  • How often: Daily
  • Common side effects: Headache, diarrhea, back pain, and abnormal liver tests
  • Support Program: ABOVE MS 800-456-2255

Glatiramer acetate (Copaxone)

  • What it treats: Relapsing-remitting MS
  • How you take it: Injection under the skin
  • How often: Three times per week
  • Common side effects: Skin reaction where the needle went in, weakness
  • Support program : 800-887-8100

Interferon beta-1a (Avonex)

  • What it treats: Relapsing forms of MS. Also given after an initial episode of inflammation.
  • How you take it: Injection into a muscle
  • How often: Weekly
  • Common side effects: Mild flu-like symptoms, reaction where the needle went in
  • Support program : 800-456-2255

Interferon beta-1a (Rebif)

  • What it treats: Relapsing forms of MS
  • How you take it: Injection under the skin
  • How often: Three times per week
  • Common side effects: Mild flu-like symptoms, reaction where the needle went in
  • Support program : 877-447-3243

Interferon beta-1b (Betaseron)

  • What it treats: Relapsing forms of MS
  • How you take it: Injection under the skin
  • How often: Every other day
  • Common side effects: Mild flu-like symptoms
  • Support program : 800-788-1467

Mitoxantrone (Novantrone)

  • What it treats: Rarely used for rapidly worsening relapsing-remitting MS and for progressive-relapsing or secondary-progressive forms of MS
  • How you take it: Through an IV infusion
  • How often: Every 3 months or four times a year for a total of 8-12 doses
  • Common side effects: Nausea, hair thinning, decreased white blood cell count
  • Support program : 877-447-3243

Peginterferon beta-1a (Plegridy)

  • What it treats: Relapsing forms of MS
  • How you take it: By autoinjector or prefilled syringe
  • How often: Three times per week
  • Common side effects: Reaction where the needle went in, flu-like symptoms
  • Support program : 800-456-2255

Natalizumab(Tysabri)

  • What it treats: Relapsing forms of MS
  • How you take it: Through an IV infusion
  • How often: Every 4 weeks
  • Common side effects: Headache, feeling tired, and joint pain
  • Support program : 800-456-2255

Ocrelizumab(Ocrevus)

  • What it treats: Relapsing or primary progressive forms of MS
  • How you take it: Through an IV infusion
  • How often: Every 6 months
  • Common side effects: Rash, headache, fever, nausea, infections
  • Support program: 844-OCREVUS

Continued

Siponimod (Mayzent)

  • What it treats: Clinically isolated syndrome, plus relapsing and secondary progressive forms of MS
  • How you take it: A pill by mouth
  • How often: Daily
  • Common side effects: Headaches, high blood pressure, liver damage
  • Support program : 877-277-2254

Teriflunomide (Aubagio)

  • What it treats: Relapsing forms of MS
  • How you take it: A tablet by mouth
  • How often: Daily
  • Common side effects: Diarrhea, liver problems, nausea, hair loss
  • Support program : 855-676-6326
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on May 30, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

Biogen Idec.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

FDA.

National MS Society: “Ocrevus.”

Prescribers' Digital Reference: “Avonex (interferon beta-1a),” ”Rebif (interferon beta-1a),” “Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate).”

Mayo Clinic: “Glatiramer (Subcutaneous Route).”

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