The disease-modifying medications are designed for long-term use — and it is recommended that people continue their medication unless the side effects are too severe, the medication is clearly not working or a better treatment becomes available. However, many people stop their medication after a period of weeks or months — and here are some reasons why:
“I’m not feeling any better.”
It’s important to remember that the disease-modifying medications are designed to reduce the underlying disease activity. They don’t treat symptoms, cure the disease, or make people feel better — in fact, you may not be able to feel them working at all. But your disease-modifying medication is an important investment in your future because it’s working “behind the scenes” to help slow disease.
“The side effects make me feel worse than the disease.”
Some people have more problems with side effects than others. Whatever side effects you are experiencing are best managed in collaboration with your healthcare team and the drug manufacturer’s support program. People who experience intolerable side effects that don’t improve over time should talk with their doctor about other medication options.
“I have taken my medication but I had an exacerbation anyway.”
None of these medications are able to cure MS or completely stop its progression. Most people will continue to experience an occasional exacerbation even while taking their medication faithfully. If your doctor determines that you are having too many relapses or developing more than the expected number of new lesions — he or she will offer other treatment options.
“Maybe something else would work better for me.”
Since it takes a few months for a medication to begin working in your system, switching frequently from one drug to another leaves you unprotected for long periods of time. Your best strategy is to give the medication you are taking sufficient time for you and your doctor to be able to evaluate its effectiveness for you.
“My insurance stopped covering the medication I was taking.”
The pharmaceutical manufacturers and the National MS Society are available to help you sort out insurance issues. If your insurance company no longer covers the medication you are taking, call for assistance as soon as possible in order to avoid interruption in your treatment. If no solution can be found to the problem, your physician may recommend a different medication that is covered by your insurance.
“I can no longer afford the co-payments for my medication.”
Insurance companies can raise or lower co-payments without notice. This is another situation in which the manufacturer or the Society may be able to assist you. Do not stop your medication without checking to see if either of these resources can help you.
If you have questions or concerns about any of these issues, be sure to contact the Society at 1-800-344-4867, or the manufacturer of the medication you are taking.