MS is a chronic condition. This means that although the symptoms of the disease may come and go, the patient still has the condition for life. Even in patients without any symptoms, MS can still be active and cause “silent” damage. Early intervention with treatment helps slow the progression of MS and can decrease the number of relapses you may have. The primarily goal of therapy for most patients is to prevent relapses and associated debilitating symptoms from occurring or accumulating.
There are many treatment options available to reduce the risk of relapses in patients with relapsing-remitting MS. Most available treatments differ either in their formulation (oral vs. self-injectable vs. infusible), dosing frequency and side effect profiles. Choice of therapy should be a decision made between the provider and patient and may depend on a number of factors including but not limited to: Disease aggressiveness, past treatment history, health plan formulary restrictions, and patient preference. These drugs are not meant to treat symptoms or relapses that are already occurring, but work to slow down or stop MS activity over a long period of time.
Other medications may be needed to help lessen the seriousness of a relapse that is already occurring. Intravenous corticosteroids are the most common treatment option in such situations. The medication is given as needed to quickly reduce the seriousness and length of a relapse. It works by decreasing swelling and the risk of permanent damage. In some patients, doses are followed by a short course of corticosteroids taken by mouth, if needed.
Risk of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML)
Some of the medications used to treat multiple sclerosis can lead to a compromised immune system which may increase the risk for a very rare and sometimes fatal viral infection of the brain called PML. While the chances of this occurring are extremely rare, it is important for patients to be vigilant when monitoring for possible early symptoms. The symptoms of PML may begin slowly, such as the weakening of the arms and legs, often on one side of the body. Additional symptoms may include:
- Vision difficulties
- Problems with balance
- Problems with speech and language
- Problems understanding someone else who is speaking
- Trouble walking
- Mental problems
- Personality changes
Many of these symptoms can also occur during a multiple sclerosis flare. Nevertheless, a health care professional should always be contacted when new symptoms are identified. The highest risk is in patients using Tysabri (natalizumab), but cases have also been reported to be rarely associated with Gilenya (fingolimod) and Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate) as well.
Treating multiple sclerosis symptoms
There are many other medications that can help manage specific MS symptoms. Please talk to your doctor or healthcare professional about any of the symptoms you are experiencing and the medications that may help. Some of these may include:
- Difficulty with walking
- Spasticity (stiff or rigid muscles)
- Bladder control
- Optic neuritis (eye swelling and severely blurred or double vision)
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Depression (feeling sad)
- Sexual dysfunction
Overcoming Medication Challenges
It is important for you to know the benefits of your medications. Here at Magellan Rx, we understand your concerns and want to help you with any difficulties you may encounter. For additional information on how to overcome medication challenges, please click here: Overcoming Medication Challenges