Although there is still no cure for MS, effective strategies are available to modify the disease course, treat exacerbations (also called attacks, relapses, or flare-ups), manage symptoms, improve function and safety, and provide emotional support. In combination, these treatments enhance the quality of life for people living with MS.
Modifying the Disease Course
The following agents can reduce disease activity and disease progression for many individuals with relapsing forms of MS, including those with secondary progressive disease who continue to have relapses.
FDA-Approved Disease-Modifying Agents
Avonex (interferon beta-1a)
Betaseron (interferon beta-1b)
Copaxone (glatiramer acetate)
Extavia (interferon beta-1b)
Rebif (interferon beta-1a)
Disease Management Consensus Statement (.pdf)
Recommendations and principles from the Society’s National Clinical Advisory Board for health care professionals and people with MS—to guide treatment with the disease-modifying drugs.
The MS Disease-Modifying Medications (.pdf)
A booklet describing the approved use, dosage and route of delivery, side effects, benefits, and available support programs.
Patient Assistance Programs
A listing of the pharmaceutical company financial assistance programs to help manage the costs of the drugs.
An exacerbation of MS is caused by inflammation in the central nervous system (CNS) that causes damage to the myelin and slows or blocks the transmission of nerve impulses. To be a true exacerbation, the attack must last at least 24 hours and be separated from a previous exacerbation by at least 30 days. However, most exacerbations last from a few days to several weeks or even months. Exacerbations can be mild or severe enough to interfere with a person’s ability to function at home and at work. Severe exacerbations are most commonly treated with high-dose corticosteroids to reduce the inflammation.
Symptoms of MS are highly variable from person to person and from time to time in the same individual. While symptoms can range from mild to severe, most can be successfully managed with strategies that include medication, self-care techniques, rehabilitation (with a physical or occupation therapist, speech/language pathologist, cognitive remediation specialist, among others), and the use of assistive devices.
Promoting Function through Rehabilitation
Rehabilitation programs focus on function—they are designed to help you improve or maintain your ability to perform effectively and safely at home and at work. Rehabilitation professionals focus on overall fitness and energy management, while addressing problems with accessibility and mobility, speech and swallowing, and memory and other cognitive functions.
Rehabilitation is an important component of comprehensive, quality health care for people with MS, at all stages of the disease. Rehabilitation programs include:
Therapy for Speech and Swallowing Problems
The Role of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)
CAM includes everything from exercise and diet to food supplements, stress management strategies, and lifestyle changes. These therapies come from various disciplines and traditions—yoga, hypnosis, relaxation techniques, traditional herbal healing, Chinese medicine, macrobiotics, naturopathy, and many others. They are referred to as complementary when they are used in conjunction with conventional medical treatments and alternative when they are used instead of conventional treatments.
FDA Updates Tysabri Label to Include Lab Test that Helps Identify Person’s Risk of Developing PML
Jan 23, 2012
The U.S. FDA has approved a change to the prescription label for Tysabri to show that a lab test that detects antibodies to the JC virus can help determine a person’s risk of developing PML, a severe brain infection. PML has emerged in some people who have taken Tysabri. The lab test should enhance the ability to weigh risks and benefits of this therapy.
European Medicines Agency Commences Safety Review of Gilenya
Jan 20, 2012
The European Medicines Agency has started a review of the oral medication Gilenya (fingolimod, Novartis) after reports issued on January 20 that there have been 11 deaths among patients who received treatment. Our sympathies go out to the families of all of these individuals. As more information becomes available, we will release it as soon as possible to the MS community.
Study Shows Potential of Lab Test to Detect Virus Which Causes PML in People with MS – ongoing study may help identify risk for PML in people treated with natalizumab
Dec 22, 2011
Biogen Idec researchers have published results on a blood test that detects antibodies to the JC virus, the virus responsible for PML. This paper reports that in an ongoing study of over 1,000 people being treated or considering treatment with Tysabri, 56% had evidence of JC virus antibodies. The presence of antibodies indicates that a person has at some point been infected by or exposed to the virus. Ultimately the study may show whether detection of antibodies to JC virus can help guide treatment decisions.
Possible Safety Issue Being Investigated with Novartis Pill Gilenya
Dec 12, 2011
Our sympathies go out to the family of an individual who recently died within 24 hours of receiving a first dose of the oral medication Gilenya. Novartis has confirmed this event and has reported it to the FDA. Until more information is available about the circumstances of this individual’s death, it is impossible to know what role Gilenya may have played in it.
Multiple Sclerosis Emerging Therapies Collaborative - UPDATE
Nov 14, 2011
We are proud to announce the launch of the Multiple Sclerosis Emerging Therapies Collaborative. The Collaborative – which includes the members of the MS Coalition, the American Academy of Neurology, and the VA Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence East and West – has as its mission:
For more information please visit the National MS Society http://www.nationalmssociety.org