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Important Info on MS Drugs


Novantrone (mitoxantrone) is approved for people with secondary-progressive MS or those with rapidly worsening relapsing-remitting MS. This cancer chemotherapy drug is given in a medical facility.
By suppressing the immune system, the drug may reduce new lesions, decrease relapses, and slow down the rate of disability.
Because of the serious side effect of heart damage, Novantrone is restricted to use in an individual no more than four times a year for up to three years.
(Click MS Medications to Manage MS Symptoms for more information on multiple sclerosis medications used to treat MS symptoms.)

Multiple Sclerosis Medications: Tysabri

Tysabri (natalizumab) is approved to treat MS as well as Crohn's disease. It is given as an hour-long IV drip once every four weeks.
Because Tysabri increases the risk of an extremely dangerous viral infection of the brain known as progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), it is available only through a restricted-distribution program (known as the TOUCH® Prescribing Program) and is used only when other MS medications are ineffective or intolerable.

New Multiple Sclerosis Medications: Ampyra, Gilenya, and Aubagio

Ampyra™ (dalfampridine) is a medication approved to improve walking in people with MS. In particular, it has been shown to improve walking speed. The drug is taken by mouth twice daily and does not alter the course of MS (it is not a disease-modifying treatment). Most people have no problems with this medicine, but it may increase the risk of seizures, especially in people with a history of seizures or who have kidney disease.
In one sense, Ampyra is not "new," since it is simply a commercially available, long-acting version of 4-aminopyridine, an unapproved drug that has been made by compounding pharmacists and used by people with multiple sclerosis for years. 
Gilenya (fingolimod) is approved for treating relapsing forms of MS. Specifically, it is approved to prevent relapses and to delay the development of physical disability due to MS. It is the only disease-modifying MS medication that is taken by mouth instead of by injection.
It is still unclear how exactly Gilenya works to treat MS. The drug is classified as a "sphingosine 1-phosphate receptor modulator." It 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.
Aubagio (teriflunomide) is the latest drug approved for MS treatment. It is approved to treat relapsing forms of MS.
Aubagio works by blocking an enzyme in the body that is needed to make molecules known as pyrimidines. 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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