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MS Treatments

An important goal of treating MS is to help a person be as independent as possible while also dealing with the strong emotions that can accompany this often-debilitating disease. Medications, physical and occupational therapy, and emotional support are all possible treatments for this condition.

An Overview of MS Treatments

At this time, there is no cure for MS. However, researchers continue to make great advancements in the understanding and treatment of this disease.
 
Current MS treatments focus on controlling the immune system and managing the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. It is important for people to work with their healthcare providers to find the best approach to address multiple sclerosis symptoms such as extreme fatigue, bladder problems, and spasticity (muscle tightness and stiffness).
 
Specific treatments can include:
 
  • Medications
  • Physical or occupational therapy
  • Emotional support.
     

Medications Used to Treat MS

There are three basic goals when using medications for the treatment of multiple sclerosis:
 
  • Manage the exacerbations or relapses of MS, which are the attacks where new symptoms appear or the old symptoms get worse
  • Modify the disease itself
  • Manage the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
     
Managing Exacerbations
While steroids do not affect the course of MS over time, they can reduce the duration and severity of attacks in some patients.
 
Modifying Multiple Sclerosis
Four forms of beta interferon (Avonex®, Betaseron®, Extavia®, and Rebif®) have now been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of relapsing-remitting MS. Beta interferon has been shown to reduce the number of exacerbations, and may slow the progression of physical disability. When attacks do occur, they tend to be shorter and less severe.
 
The FDA also has approved a synthetic form of myelin basic protein, called copolymer I (Copaxone®), for the treatment of relapsing-remitting MS. Copolymer I has few side effects, and studies indicate that the agent can reduce the relapse rate by almost one-third.
 
An immunosuppressant treatment for multiple sclerosis, 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."
 
The 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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