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Drugs That Can Modify MS

Medications to Modify the Disease
A number of newer drugs have been shown to modify the course of multiple sclerosis. These medications work by altering or suppressing the activity of your immune system. A group of drugs called beta interferons mimic a protein that occurs naturally in your body. They appear to block certain white blood cells from attacking the myelin covering of the nerves. They also seem to stop other white blood cells, called T cells, from releasing cytokines, which are chemicals that encourage inflammation and attract other immune cells to the area.
 
These medications include:
 
While they don't cure the disease, beta interferons have been shown to reduce the frequency and severity of MS attacks by about 25 percent or more, depending on the dose. These drugs may also reduce the amount of scar tissue that develops in the brain by 70 percent to 80 percent. With less damage occurring in the central nervous system, the progression of multiple sclerosis symptoms is slowed, possibly reducing the level of disability you may face in the future.
 
Other MS treatment medications include Copaxone®, a small protein that resembles a protein found in myelin. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also has approved Copaxone for the treatment of relapsing-remitting MS. Copaxone has few side effects, and studies indicate that the agent can reduce the relapse rate by almost one-third.
 
An immunosuppressant treatment, Novantrone® (mitoxantrone), is approved by the FDA for the treatment of advanced or chronic MS. Another disease-modifying MS drug, Tysabri® (natalizumab), is available only through a restricted-access program for people who have found other MS drugs to be ineffective or intolerable, since it can cause very dangerous side effects.
 
There are two disease-modifying drugs that are taken by mouth rather than injection. Gilenya™ (fingolimod) is classified as a "sphingosine 1-phosphate receptor modulator."
 
This drug binds to certain receptors in the body and prevents lymphocytes from leaving the lymph nodes. This decreases the number of lymphocytes in the bloodstream. A lymphocyte is a type of white blood cell that plays an important role in the immune system.
 
The other oral disease-modifying MS medication is Aubagio® (teriflunomide), a pyrimidine synthesis inhibitor. Lymphocytes need pyrimidines to divide and reproduce. By preventing the body from making pyrimidines, Aubagio reduces the number of lymphocytes in the body, which may be the reason it works to prevent MS relapses. Aubagio can cause liver problems and suppression of the immune system and cannot be taken by pregnant women.
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