When should I start treatment for MS?

When is the best time to start MS treatment? Based on what we know now, the sooner the better!

MS experts are now recommending that MS treatment be considered as soon as possible after a person is diagnosed with MS. Treatment may also be considered for people who have had only one attack, but are at high risk of developing MS.

This is because MS can start causing irreversible damage to the brain and nerves very early in the course of the disease. Often this damage is silent - you can't see or feel it. But it's still there, even people in who are not having any symptoms of MS. Doctors can view this damage by looking at your MRI (magnetic resonance imaging, a machine that gives doctors a picture of your brain).

The silent damage that MS can cause has been linked to the more visible effects of MS, such as the progression of disability. Fortunately, early treatment can help fight both the invisible and visible parts of MS. A group of medications called disease-modifying medications can reduce the frequency of relapses, slow the progression of disability, and reduce the number and volume of active brain lesions (areas of damage caused by MS). To learn more about these medications, see "What are my options for treating MS?"

If you've had a single attack, but are at high risk of developing MS, certain medications, such as once-weekly interferon beta-1a (Avonex® PS), interferon beta-1b (Betaseron®,  Extavia®), or glatiramer (Copaxone®) can reduce your risk of developing MS. Talk to your doctor to find out more about whether this could be an option for you.

Starting medication treatment for MS is a personal decision. Your doctor can help you learn more about the benefits and risks of treatment, and can assist you in deciding when to start treatment. Speak to your doctor for more information.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/MS-Deciding-on-Treatment

What are my options for treating MS?

If your doctor has recommended that you start treatment with a disease-modifying medication (a medication that can change the course of the disease) for MS, you have many options to choose from. The following disease-modifying medications are available in Canada.

Avonex® PS (interferon beta-1a)

This medication is used to treat the relapsing forms of MS. It is given once weekly into a muscle.

It is used to slow the progression of disability, decrease the frequency of relapses, and decrease the number and volume of active brain lesions (damage caused by MS) as shown on an MRI scan. It can also be used for people who have had a single attack, are at high risk of developing MS, and have and abnormal MRI scan - in this case it can reduce the risk of actually developing MS and also reduce the number and volume of active brain lesions.

This medication is also used to treat people with secondary progressive MS (who are still having relapses) to reduce decrease the frequency of relapses and decrease the brain lesions as shown on an MRI scan.

Betaseron® (interferon beta-1b)

This medication is given every other day as an injection under the skin. It is used to treat relapsing forms of MS (such as secondary progressive MS and relapsing-remitting MS).

For people with secondary progressive MS, it can slow the progression of disability and reduce the frequency of relapses. For people with relapsing-remitting MS, it can be used to reduce the frequency of relapses. It can also be used to reduce the risk of developing MS for people who have had a single MS attack, are at high risk of MS, and have an abnormal MRI scan.

Copaxone® (glatiramer acetate)

This medication is given once a day as an injection under the skin. It is used to treat relapsing-remitting MS.

For people with relapsing-remitting MS, it can reduce the frequency of relapses. It can also be used for people who have had a single attack and are at high risk of developing MS and have an abnormal MRI scan - in this case it can reduce the risk of actually developing MS and also reduce the number and volume of active brain lesions.

Extavia® (interferon beta-1b)

This medication is given every other day as an injection under the skin. It is used to treat relapsing forms of MS (such as secondary progressive MS and relapsing-remitting MS).

For people with secondary progressive MS, it can slow the progression of disability and reduce the frequency of relapses. For people with relapsing-remitting MS, it can be used to reduce the frequency of relapses. It can also be used to reduce the risk of developing MS for people who have had a single MS attack, are at high risk of MS, and have an abnormal MRI scan.

Gilenya® (fingolimod)

This medication is taken by mouth once a day. It is generally recommended for people who cannot take other MS treatments or for whom other MS treatments have not worked.

It is used for people with relapsing-remitting MS to reduce the frequency of relapses and slow the progression of physical disability.

Rebif® (interferon beta-1a)

This medication is given 3 times a week as an injection under the skin. It is used to treat relapsing forms of MS.

For people with relapsing-remitting MS, it can reduce the number and severity of relapses, slow the progression of physical disability, reduce the need for steroid medications, reduce the number of hospital visits for MS, and reduce the MS-related brain damage seen on an MRI scan. For those with secondary progressive MS, it can reduce the frequency of relapses and decrease MS-related brain damage as seen on an MRI scan.

Tysabri® (natalizumab)

This medication is given once every 4 weeks as an IV infusion. An IV infusion is a slow injection into a vein that is given in a clinic by a healthcare professional. It is used to treat relapsing-remitting MS.  It is generally recommended for people who cannot take other MS treatments or for whom other MS treatments have not worked.

For people with relapsing-remitting MS, it can reduce the frequency of relapses, delay the progression of physical disability, and reduce the number and volume of active brain lesions (areas damaged by MS) shown on an MRI scan.

You can use this information about MS treatment options as a starting point for your own research. To learn more about choosing a treatment, see "Which treatment for MS is right for me?" It's important to know that all treatments have both benefits and risks. Speak to your doctor for more information.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/MS-Deciding-on-Treatment

Which treatment for MS is right for me?

Choosing an MS treatment is a personal decision that involves considering the risks and benefits of the treatment options available to you. The right treatment for you will depend on your individual situation and preferences. Here are a few tips to help you consider your options.

Learn more about your treatment options. Before weighing your choices, be sure you have all the information you need. You'll need to find out:

  • which medication options are available
  • how each medication works
  • how it can help your MS (e.g., slow the progression of disease, prevent relapses, manage symptoms, treat relapses)
  • when to expect the benefits to start
  • how long the medication may continue to work
  • what side effects may occur and whether they can lead to serious complications
  • how to manage side effects
  • medication costs
  • how and where the medication is given

For more information on treatment options available in Canada, see "What are my options for treating MS?" Your doctor or pharmacist can help answer your questions and direct you to other sources of information. You can also do some research on your own. For more information, see our health feature article "MS: Doing your own research."

Think about your treatment goals and expectations. Consider how you are hoping to benefit from taking the medication and whether the medication can help you achieve these benefits. It's also important to consider that although clinical studies give us an idea of how well a medication works in a group of people with MS, the results may vary for each individual.

Consider both benefits and risks. Ask yourself if the benefits you're expecting to get from the medication are worth the risks in terms of safety. Remember that not everyone gets all of the side effects listed in the product information, and that other side effects may appear that are not listed. There is no way to tell which side effects you may experience, but it's important to tell your doctor or pharmacist whether you have any medical conditions, or if you're pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, as this may affect the safety of the medication for you.

Talk to your doctor and pharmacist. These healthcare professionals are trained to help you make informed decisions about your treatment. For tips on talking to your doctor, see "Choosing a treatment for MS: Your doctor can help."

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/MS-Deciding-on-Treatment

Choosing a treatment for MS: Your doctor can help

Wondering which treatment is right for you? Your doctor can do two things to help you decide:

  • give you the information you need to make an informed decision
  • offer a professional opinion based on experience and insight

You'll get the most out of your doctor's visit if you come prepared:

  • Schedule your visit for a time of day when you have the most energy.
  • Before your visit, write down the questions you'd like to ask your doctor. The suggestions below will help get you started.
  • Bring a notepad (or a friend) to your visit to help you keep track of the information you get during your appointment.

Here are a few questions to ask your doctor:

  1. How will this medication help with my MS (and by how much)?
    • Can it slow down the progression of disability?
    • Can it make my relapses less frequent or severe?
    • Can it reduce my brain lesions?
    • Can it help prevent me from developing clinically definite MS?
    • Can it relieve my MS symptoms? Which ones, and how much can I expect them to improve?
    • Can it help treat my relapses?
    • How else can it help with my MS?
  2. When can I expect the medication to start working, and how long will it continue to be effective?
  3. What will happen to my MS if I don't take the medication?
  4. What side effects are possible with this medication?
  5. Which side effects am I most likely to get?
  6. What are the most serious side effects with this medication, and how common are they? When should I seek medical attention for a side effect?
  7. What is the long-term safety of this medication? How long has the medication been used by people with MS?
  8. Which MS medication or treatment approach do you recommend, and why?
  9. How does this treatment compare to my other options?
  10. If I choose this option, would there be any situations where I should reconsider my decision? (e.g., if you become pregnant, if you develop side effects)

Asking these questions will help you and your doctor weigh the available treatment options and find the treatment that's right for you. You may also wish to add your own questions to this list. Don't be afraid to ask any questions that are on your mind, and keep asking questions until you fully understand your treatment options.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/MS-Deciding-on-Treatment