Living with MS
Current Drug Treatments
Although there is still no cure for MS, there are various drug treatments available to modify the disease course, treat relapses, manage symptoms and improve function and safety. Most people newly diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) are interested in learning as much as possible about the types of treatments that are available.
This information about the disease-modifying therapies for MS (DMTs)—also known as Disease Modifying Drugs (DMDs) —treatments that have been shown to alter the underlying course of MS by reducing the number and severity of relapses. DMDs differ from the other drugs you may be prescribed to manage and treat particular symptoms of your MS which do not have any effect on the disease course.
While you may have been alarmed to hear that these medications require self-injection, we hope that this information will allay some of your fears and provide you with the information you need to be an informed partner in making treatment decisions with your doctor. Whilst we cannot tell you which medication is best for you, it provides the basic information you need to talk comfortably with your neurologist and GP.
The care and treatment of MS has entered a new and exciting phase. We now have the means to modify the course of the disease. Original studies and subsequent research trials have consistently demonstrated benefits. The DMDs used in New Zealand for treating MS relapses are Avonex®, Betaferon® and Copaxone®. The first two of these are known as "beta interferons".
Following careful review of the published data concerning the three medications for relapsing-remitting MS (Betaferon®, Avonex® and Copaxone®), and based upon considerable clinical experience with these agents over some years, it is now generally recommended that:
- Treatment with one of these drugs should be initiated as soon as possible following a definite diagnosis of MS and determination of a relapsing-remitting course; and that
- Treatment be continued indefinitely, unless there is clear lack of benefit, intolerable side effects, or a better treatment becomes available.
With these treatment options comes the opportunity to educate yourself and to participate with your doctor in the decision-making process. Your best sources of additional information about these treatments are your neurologist, GP, the MS Society and the pharmaceutical companies that distribute them.