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What drugs are used to treat the relapsing form of multiple sclerosis?

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There are three drugs that you take by mouth to treat the relapsing form of multiple sclerosis (MS):

  • Teriflunomide (Aubagio) is a tablet you take once a day. The most common side effects include diarrhea, abnormal liver tests, nausea, and hair loss. But Aubagio does carry a "black box" warning, the FDA's most serious warning, because of liver problems and birth defects. If you take this medicine, your doctor will likely do regular tests to check how well your liver is working. And you shouldn't take this drug if you're pregnant.
  • Gilenya is another once-a-day tablet for relapsing MS. Before you can take this drug, you'll need to get a vaccine for chickenpox if you haven't already had chickenpox. That's because during a clinical study one person died from chickenpox while taking Gilenya. Gilenya's most common side effects include headache, diarrhea, back pain, cough, and abnormal liver tests. Because the medicine may cause a slow heart rate, your doctor will watch you closely after your first dose. Also, some possible cases of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) -- a rare brain infection -- have been reported in people taking this drug.
  • Tecfidera is a tablet you take twice a day for relapsing MS. It may cause low levels of immune cells, so your doctor will do regular blood tests to check for that. The drug's most common side effects are flushing, stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. An active ingredient similar to the one in Tecfidera has been linked to four cases of PML.

From: Treatments for Multiple Sclerosis WebMD Medical Reference

National Multiple Sclerosis Society: "Disease Management Consensus Statement," "Fingolimod," "Novantrone (mitoxantrone),"  "Exacerbations,"  "FDA Approves Plegridy (Pegylated Interferon Beta) For Relapsing MS."

John Ratchford, MD, assistant professor of neurology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

NINDS: "Multiple Sclerosis Information Page."

Goldman, L.  , Saunders Elsevier, 2007. Cecil Medicine

FDA: "Safety Update on Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML) Associated with Tysabri," "FDA approves new multiple sclerosis treatment Aubagio," "FDA investigating rare brain infection in patient taking Gilenya (fingolimod)."

Reviewed by Neil Lava on March 13, 2018

National Multiple Sclerosis Society: "Disease Management Consensus Statement," "Fingolimod," "Novantrone (mitoxantrone),"  "Exacerbations,"  "FDA Approves Plegridy (Pegylated Interferon Beta) For Relapsing MS."

John Ratchford, MD, assistant professor of neurology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

NINDS: "Multiple Sclerosis Information Page."

Goldman, L.  , Saunders Elsevier, 2007. Cecil Medicine

FDA: "Safety Update on Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML) Associated with Tysabri," "FDA approves new multiple sclerosis treatment Aubagio," "FDA investigating rare brain infection in patient taking Gilenya (fingolimod)."

Reviewed by Neil Lava on March 13, 2018

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