Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence
Medications for Multiple Sclerosis
The goals for MS therapies are to reduce the frequency of relapses, slow the progression of the disease, manage symptoms, and improve quality of life. Medications for MS focus on controlling the immune system and managing symptoms. People with MS should work with their MS Multidisciplinary Care Team to find the best approach to address their MS symptoms.
Disease Modifying Therapies
Over twenty different disease modifying therapies (DMTs) have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of MS. These include injectable, oral, and infused medications. DMTs have been shown to reduce relapses and neurologic disability, but be aware that DMTs do not treat chronic symptoms or restore lost function.
People with MS who are good candidates for a DMT should start treatment as soon as possible. Research shows that early treatment with DMTs can reduce long-term disability from MS. Use of DMTs is not limited by the frequency of relapses, age, or level of disability. Treatment is not stopped unless it is it clearly no longer effective, there are intolerable side effects, or a better treatment becomes available.
As with all medications, there can be side effects. Your health care provider will discuss these with you and help you to select the most appropriate medication. If your condition changes or you experience bothersome medication side effects, your VA health care team will work with you to find solutions.
Choosing the Best DMT For You
- Discuss your MS disease course with your health care provider as well as the benefits and risks of therapies.
- Contemplate the route of the therapy - oral, self-injection by needle, or clinic appointment infusion (into the vein) - and your ability to take the therapy as prescribed.
- Understand how often you’ll need to be seen for exams, labs, infusions, and follow-up care.
- Consider your overall health
and family planning
Information on medications for MS can be found on the DMTs for MS page.
- Generic and Biosimilar DMTs
- Making the Decision to Use DMTs for MS
- MS Medications: Decisions and Discussions
- National MS Society: Medications
- Understanding Your Medications
People with MS may suffer from a variety of symptoms including bladder problems, bowel dysfunction, depression, dizziness, walking difficulties, sexual dysfunction, pain, and fatigue. Fortunately, there are a number of medications, interventions, and therapies that can effectively manage these symptoms. Therapies and interventions can include physical therapy for walking difficulties and muscle stiffness, occupational therapy for tremor, or a cooling vest for heat sensitivity. Other lifestyle changes, like a healthy diet and safe exercise plan, can significantly help with symptoms and improve overall health. These treatment approaches may not always make the symptom go away completely, but can often make symptoms easier to manage.
If the first treatment does not work or has too many side effects, there are others you can try. It may be important to address the most bothersome symptom first. Discuss your options with your health care team to create an individualized treatment plan for you.
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