Multiple Sclerosis Medications
Multiple sclerosis medications are used in a three ways to treat MS. Some drugs manage flare-ups of the disease. Others, known as disease-modifying treatments, alter the course of the disease itself. The last category of medicines for multiple sclerosis includes those that manage the symptoms of MS.
- Managing the exacerbations or relapses of MS, which are the attacks where new symptoms appear or the old symptoms get worse
- Modifying the disease itself
- Managing the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
MS exacerbations (or "attacks") are usually accompanied by inflammation and breakdown of the myelin in the central nervous system. If the symptoms are severe, high doses of steroids, such as Solu-Medrol®, may be given through an IV to reduce the swelling and inflammation that contribute to demyelination.
There are eight different multiple sclerosis medications commonly used to slow down the course of MS:
(A ninth drug, Novantrone®, is less readily available.)
These multiple sclerosis medications are known as disease-modifying treatments (DMTs). One multiple sclerosis medication is not more effective than another. The most effective multiple sclerosis medication is one that a person takes regularly. Therefore, people with MS must carefully consider the type of injection, the number of times a medication must be given, and the side effects to determine which medication might fit them the best.
Extavia, Avonex, Betaseron, Rebif, and Copaxone are taken by injection into the skin or muscle. Extavia, Avonex, Betaseron, and Rebif are interferons, which are proteins that the body makes in response to viral infections. Copaxone is a small protein that resembles a protein found in myelin. Tysabri is given as an IV once a month.
Gilenya, approved in 2010, is the first disease-modifying MS medication that is taken by mouth. It is taken as a tablet just once a day. Aubagio, approved in 2013, is the second oral disease-modifying MS medication.