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Overview

Medications are used in multiple sclerosis (MS) to modify the disease course, treat relapses — also called attacks or exacerbations — and manage symptoms. Along with the other essential components of comprehensive MS care, these medications help people manage their MS and enhance their comfort and quality of life. 

Modifying the disease course

The following US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved disease modifying therapies for MS have been found through clinical trials to reduce the number of relapses, delay progression of disability, and limit new disease activity (as seen on MRI).

  • Injectable medications
    • Avonex (interferon beta-1a)
      • Biogen, the manufacturer of  AVONEX® (interferon beta-1a), will be discontinuing the AVONEX Lyophilized powder (LYO) in a single-use vial on or around October 31, 2018. AVONEX will continue to be available in the Prefilled syringe and AVONEX PEN® formulations. If you are using the lyophilized version of AVONEX please speak with your healthcare provider about switching to the AVONEX PEN or AVONEX Prefilled Syringe. If you have questions, please contact Biogen at 1-800-456-2255, 8:30 AM to 8 PM ET, Monday through Friday.
    • Betaseron (interferon beta-1b)
    • Copaxone (glatiramer acetate)
    • Extavia (interferon beta-1b)
    • Glatiramer Acetate Injection (glatiramer acetate -generic equivalent of Copaxone 20 mg and 40 mg doses)
    • Glatopa (glatiramer acetate - generic equivalent of Copaxone 20mg and 40mg doses)
    • Plegridy (peginterferon beta-1a)
    • Rebif (interferon beta-1a)
    • Zinbryta (daclizumab)
      • Zinbryta (daclizumab) was withdrawn from the worldwide market on March 2, 2018. Please see important information about the withdrawal in our Society News.
  • Oral medications
  • Infused medications

Following the treatment plan that you and your doctor have established is the best possible strategy for managing your MS:

Under certain circumstances, some healthcare providers may use medications to treat MS that have FDA approval for other diseases -- also called "off-label" use. Over the past few decades, several medications have been used off-label in MS.

Managing relapses

MS relapses are caused by inflammation in the central nervous system that damages the myelin coating around nerve fibers. This damage slows or disrupts the transmission of nerve impulses and causes the symptoms of MS. Most relapses will gradually resolve without treatment.

For severe relapses (involving loss of vision, severe weakness or poor balance, for example), which interfere with a person’s mobility, safety or overall ability to function, most neurologists recommend treatment with corticosteroids. The most common treatment regimen is a three-to-five-day course of high-dose, intravenous corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and end the relapse more quickly. This regimen may or may not be followed with a slow taper of oral prednisone. Corticosteroids are not believed to have any long-term benefit on the disease. Medication options include:

Managing symptoms

A wide variety of medications are used to help manage the symptoms of MS. Below are common symptoms of MS and the medications used to treat those symptoms.

Bladder Problems

Dysfunction

Infection

Bowel Dysfunction

Depression

Dizziness and Vertigo

Emotional Changes

  • Nuedexta (dextromethorphan + quinidine)

Fatigue

Itching

Pain

Sexual Problems

Spasticity

Tremors

Walking (Gait) Difficulties

Additional resources

Learn more about treatment options by watching these videos.  Additional videos on specific treatments are available on the treatment's web page.

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