Category Archives: MS Medications

My Gilenya Experience

….Just wanted to give an update on my Gilenya experience.  I’m past the 6-month mark and doing well. Mandatory eye exam and bloodwork are fine, and I’m having no other adverse reactions to the med. My neuro has about 100 people on it and only 1 person had the initial lowered heart rate. Not bad odds. This med seems to be best for people with moderate courses of the disease, and those who fare well on the injectables. Not the solution for all MSers, but it’s been nice to be needle-free and if you are thinking of ditching the Avonex, Betaseron, Copaxone, or Rebif, and your doctor thinks you are a suitable candidate, I highly recommend.

News About Oral Fingolimod

I’m currently enjoying a summer respite from some of my freelance work: has taken a much-needed hiatus for the next few weeks and I’m relishing NOT writing or talking about multiple sclerosis. However, I leave an article below for anyone who peruses this page. It’s an update about the process for oral fingolimod getting FDA approval as the first oral disease-modifying med in the United States. Although I don’t think this drug might be appropriate for me (given some of its side-effects), I am awaiting one of the other oral meds soon to follow. Crossing fingers that some of these oral medications will replace the invasive injections/infusions that so many of us must tolerate.

Back to the beautiful weather here: today’s 80 degrees with little humidity. Might hit up the beach for the remainder of the afternoon… : )

UPDATE: FDA Panel Recommends Approval of Oral Fingolimod for Relapsing MS — If agency follows advice, it would become first oral disease-modifying therapy for MS

Updated June 14, 2010

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee today recommended that the agency approve marketing of fingolimod capsules (formerly called Gilenia, Novartis International AG) for the treatment of relapsing multiple sclerosis. If approved, fingolimod would be the first oral disease-modifying therapy for the treatment of MS. While the FDA is not required to follow the recommendations of its advisory committees, it usually does. According to Novartis, the agency is expected to make a final decision about whether to approve the drug in September 2010.

During an all-day meeting held June 10, 2010, the FDA advisory committee reviewed data about the effectiveness and safety of fingolimod, as well as a proposed plan designed to monitor and mitigate risks – called Risk Evaluation Mitigation Strategies (REMS) that would likely be mandated to monitor safety if the agent is approved. The committee also heard public testimony from individuals and patient advocacy groups, including the National MS Society, which testified to the unmet need for more therapies for people with MS.

Among its discussions, the advisory committee recommended that fingolimod be approved at the dose (0.5 mg once daily) recommended by Novartis and that:
• Fingolimod demonstrated substantial evidence of effectiveness for the treatment of relapsing MS to reduce the frequency of clinical relapses and to delay the accumulation of physical disability;
• the safety data currently known justify the drug’s approval, and the FDA should require a post-marketing study that would proactively gather information about adverse events and longer-term safety, the effects on a broader range of people than were included in the trials, and possible complications of taking other medications including steroids along with fingolimod;
• patients should be monitored during the first dose for possible lowering of heart rate and other potential heart effects, and that some assessments for potential adverse events related to eye (especially macular edema) and lung function be required, to an extent to be determined by the FDA;
• the FDA should consider requiring a study to evaluate whether a lower dose would be as effective as the recommended dose, with fewer adverse events;
• this therapy should be approved as a first-line therapy, meaning that patients would be eligible to take fingolimod without having to try an alternative therapy first.

Click here to read the remainder of this article

MS News: February 2010

I’ve been busy with some new contract work and so I’m just dropping a note to report a few of the latest happenings in the month of February. Be well and please hope for an early spring!


Joan’s MS Chat Room this Friday, February 22nd:

Join Joan’s MS chat room this Friday, February 26th, from 7 – 9 pm Eastern Standard Time. Log into the chat from Joan’s blog A Short in the Cord by clicking on the coffee cup in the right margin of the homepage. Always fun and not always reverent, the chat is for anyone who would like to join (not just Delaware area MSers.) The topic this session will be “information exchange”, so if you have any news, tips, or happenings you’d like to offer (or receive), come out and join the discussion. All from the comfort of your home.

Latest about Prospective Oral MS Disease-Modifying med Fingolimod, now called Gilenia®:

Novartis International AG, the pharmaceutical company who created FTY720 or fingolimod, an initial oral disease-modifying MS medication, has been given priority review from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, due to the drug’s potential for multiple sclerosis. Novartis petitioned for FDA approval in December of 2009, and priority review speeds up the process– if the drug is seen to be safe for use– to six months or less. At the same time the FDA will carefully evaluate whether FTY720 or fingolimod should require a risk management program to coincide with drug usage. For more information about this oral medication, see the National MS Society’s news piece.

First American Study of Venous Insufficiency (CCSVI) in Multiple Sclerosis Patients Intrigues and Spawns Further Research:

This topic I find fascinating: the idea that MS patients have an insufficient flow of blood leading away from the brain, causing abnormal flow patterns and neuron damage within the brain. My thoughts are still murky about this topic and I’m not completely convinced of the validity of the idea, but I’m happy to see that the University of Buffalo has and is continuing to study the topic. They’ve performed a large study with MS patients and healthy control patients. Ultrasound venous Doppler tests were performed and a significant amount- over 55%- of MS patients were seen to have the vascular anomaly compared with about 22% of healthy individuals. These findings are prompting more research into this CCSVI phenomenon. The U of Buffalo has had the first large study after the idea was initially tested by Dr. Paolo Zamboni in Italy. For more information about this cutting-edge research, see the University of Buffalo’s news release.

MS Strength’s Fundraiser for the MS Society Scholarship Program is Soon to Hit $100 (AGAIN):

This is my own little project and if you glance to the upper right of the homepage here, you’ll see that the funds for the second donation are now over $95. Thanks for your help and for supporting a great cause: EDUCATION. You can read about recent recipients of the MS Scholarship fund by accessing the MS Society’s scholarship page.

AMPYRA: New MS Symptom Medication

I recently received the following press release about a new multiple sclerosis therapy (symptom-managing as opposed to disease-modifying) that is viewed to increase mobility. Given that we spoke a bit about it at my MS support group last night, I feel the need to share with you this information and to allow you to make your own decision as to whether to try it:

Hi Jen:

On January 22nd, the US FDA approved a new MS therapy called AMPYRA from Acorda Therapeutics. Ampyra is indicated to improve walking in people with MS as demonstrated by an increase in walking speed. As a leader in the effort to inform and inspire people with MS about the disease, we hope that you will want to share information about this important development with the people who follow your blog.

Below please find a press release with more details about Ampyra and Acorda. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.


Agnes Cao

Berry & Company Public Relations

57 East 11th Street

Sixth Floor

New York, NY 10003

Acorda Therapeutics Announces FDA Approval of

AMPYRA™ (dalfampridine) to Improve Walking in People with

Multiple Sclerosis – Demonstrated by Increases in Walking Speeds

HAWTHORNE, N.Y., January 22, 2010 – Acorda Therapeutics, Inc. (Nasdaq: ACOR) today announced that it has received marketing approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for AMPYRA™ (dalfampridine), an oral treatment to improve walking in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). This was demonstrated by an increase in walking speed. AMPYRA demonstrated efficacy in people with all four major types of MS (relapsing remitting, secondary progressive, progressive relapsing and primary progressive). AMPYRA can be used alone or with existing MS therapies, including immunomodulator drugs.

“The approval of AMPYRA marks an important milestone for the many people with MS who suffer walking impairment. Difficulty walking is often cited by those with MS as one of the most pervasive and challenging aspects of their disease,” said Ron Cohen, M.D., President and CEO of Acorda Therapeutics, adding “We are enormously gratified to have achieved approval for the only medication indicated to improve walking in people with MS, and we thank all of the clinicians, people living with MS and medical and patient support organizations who joined in this effort over the past decade. Reaching this milestone underscores Acorda’s ongoing commitment to develop innovative therapies for people with neurological diseases.”

“Walking impairment affects a large majority of people with MS, and we are very pleased that the FDA has approved a new treatment that addresses this aspect of the disease,” said John Richert, M.D., Executive Vice President for Research & Clinical Programs at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. “Continuing to advance clinical research and expand the range of therapeutic options for people with MS, including treatments for the most debilitating symptoms and challenges associated with the disease, is critical to helping people with MS.”

AMPYRA, which was previously referred to as Fampridine-SR, is an extended release tablet formulation of dalfampridine (4-aminopyridine, 4-AP), which was previously called fampridine. The FDA granted AMPYRA orphan drug status, which will provide seven years of market exclusivity for the drug. In addition, Acorda has several issued patents that cover the formulation and use of AMPYRA.

AMPYRA is administered as a 10 mg tablet twice daily, approximately 12 hours apart. The primary measure of efficacy in its two Phase 3 MS trials was walking speed (in feet per second) as measured by the Timed 25-foot Walk (T25FW), using a responder analysis. A responder was defined as a patient who showed faster walking speed for at least three visits out of a possible four during the double-blind period than the maximum speed achieved in the five non-double-blind, no treatment visits (four before the double-blind period and one after).

A significantly greater proportion of patients taking AMPYRA 10 mg twice daily were responders compared to patients taking placebo, as measured by the T25FW (Trial 1: 34.8% vs. 8.3%; Trial 2: 42.9% vs. 9.3%). The increased response rate in the AMPYRA group was observed across all four major types of MS.

During the double-blind treatment period, a significantly greater proportion of patients taking AMPYRA 10 mg twice daily had increases in walking speed of at least 10%, 20%, or 30% from baseline, compared to placebo. In both trials, the consistent improvements in walking speed were shown to be associated with improvements on a patient self-assessment of ambulatory disability, the 12-item Multiple Sclerosis Walking Scale (MSWS-12), for both drug and placebo treated patients. However, a drug-placebo difference was not established for that outcome measure.

“Walking impairment makes life more difficult for many of my patients,” said Dr. Andrew Goodman, M.D., Director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at the University of Rochester. “With the approval of AMPYRA, we will have the first treatment option shown to improve walking speed in people with MS.”

Acorda expects AMPYRA to be commercially available in the United States in March 2010. AMPYRA will be distributed exclusively through a network of specialty pharmacies and coordinated by AMPYRA Patient Support Services. Dedicated and experienced customer care agents will be available to help healthcare professionals process prescriptions, work with insurance carriers to facilitate coverage, and help patients to access benefits available through reimbursement assistance and patient assistance programs.

AMPYRA Patient Support Services can be reached at 888-881-1918 for more information about AMPYRA.

The FDA approved AMPYRA with a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (REMS) program comprising a medication guide and communication plan. The goals of the communication plan are to inform patients about the serious risks, including seizures, associated with use of higher than recommended doses of AMPYRA therapy, and the change of the established name from fampridine to dalfampridine.

AMPYRA will be marketed in the United States by Acorda’s established commercial organization, which successfully launched ZANAFLEX CAPSULES® (tizanidine hydrochloride). The Company plans to double the number of field- based sales professionals to approximately 100 by the time of commercial availability in March.

Under Acorda’s existing license and supply agreement with Elan Pharma International Limited, a subsidiary of Elan Corporation, plc (NYSE: ELN), AMPYRA will be manufactured by Elan Drug Technologies using one of their Oral Controlled Release Technologies, the MXDAS™ (MatriX Drug Absorption System) technology.

“We are delighted that AMPRYA will now be available to help people with MS. This approval represents another significant milestone in our successful collaboration with Acorda Therapeutics,” announced Shane Cooke, Executive Vice President and Head of Elan Drug Technologies. “The approval is the culmination of an enormous amount of work and effort over many years and is the second product in which we have collaborated with Acorda. We hope to find additional opportunities to work together in the future.”

Important Safety Information

AMPYRA can cause seizures; the risk of seizures increases with increasing AMPYRA doses. AMPYRA is contraindicated in patients with a prior history of seizure. Discontinue AMPYRA use if seizure occurs.

AMPYRA is contraindicated in patients with moderate to severe renal impairment (CrCl≤50 mL/min); the risk of seizures in patients with mild renal impairment (CrCl 51–80 mL/min) is unknown, but AMPYRA plasma levels in these patients may approach those seen at a dose of 15 mg twice daily, a dose that may be associated with an increased risk of seizures; estimated CrCl should be known before initiating treatment with AMPYRA.

AMPYRA should not be taken with other forms of 4-aminopyridine (4-AP, fampridine), since the active ingredient is the same.

Urinary tract infections were reported more frequently as adverse reactions in patients receiving AMPYRA 10 mg twice daily compared to placebo

The most common adverse events (incidence ≥2% and at a rate greater than the placebo rate) for AMPYRA in MS patients were urinary tract infection, insomnia, dizziness, headache, nausea, asthenia, back pain, balance disorder, multiple sclerosis relapse, paresthesia, nasopharyngitis, constipation, dyspepsia, and pharyngolaryngeal pain.

*For full prescribing information, please visit:

About AMPYRA (dalfampridine)

AMPYRA is a potassium channel blocker approved as a treatment to improve walking in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). This was demonstrated by an increase in walking speed. AMPYRA, which was previously referred to as Fampridine-SR, is an extended release tablet formulation of dalfampridine (4-aminopyridine, 4-AP), which was previously called fampridine. In laboratory studies, dalfampridine has been found to improve impulse conduction in nerve fibers in which the insulating layer, called myelin, has been damaged. AMPYRA is being developed and commercialized in the United States by Acorda Therapeutics, and by Biogen Idec in markets outside the U.S. based on a licensing agreement with Acorda. AMPYRA is manufactured globally by Elan based on an existing supply agreement with Acorda.

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, usually progressive disease in which the immune system attacks and degrades the function of nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. More than 400,000 Americans have MS. Most people living with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and women are affected two to three times more often than men. Worldwide, MS may affect an estimated 2.5 million people.

Research indicates 64%-85% of people with MS have difficulty walking, and 70% of people with MS who have difficulty walking report it to be the most challenging aspect of their MS. Within 15 years of an MS diagnosis, 50% of people with MS often require assistance walking and, in later stages, up to a one third are unable to walk.

About Acorda Therapeutics

Acorda Therapeutics is a biotechnology company developing therapies for multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury and related nervous system disorders. The Company’s marketed products include AMPYRA™ (dalfampridine), a potassium channel blocker approved as a treatment to improve walking in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), as demonstrated by an improvement in walking speed; and ZANAFLEX CAPSULES® (tizanidine hydrochloride), a short-acting drug for the management of spasticity. The Company’s pipeline includes a number of products in development for the treatment, regeneration and repair of the spinal cord and brain.

About Elan Drug Technologies

Elan Drug Technologies (EDT) is the world’s leading drug delivery company and is a business unit of Elan (NYSE:ELN). EDT developed dalfampridine, using one of their proprietary Oral Controlled Release Technologies, the MXDAS™ (MatriX Drug Absorption System) technology. EDT aim to deliver clinically meaningful benefits to patients by using their extensive experience and proprietary delivery technologies in partnership with pharmaceutical companies. Products enabled by their technologies are used by millions of patients each day. More information is available at

Forward-Looking Statements

This press release includes forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. All statements, other than statements of historical facts, regarding management’s expectations, beliefs, goals, plans or prospects should be considered forward-looking. These statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially, including Acorda Therapeutics’ ability to successfully market and sell Ampyra in the United States and to successfully market Zanaflex Capsules, the risk of unfavorable results from future studies of Amypra, the occurrence of adverse safety events with our products, delays in obtaining or failure to obtain regulatory approval of Ampyra outside of the United States and our dependence on our collaboration partner Biogen IDEC in connection therewith, competition, failure to protect Acorda Therapeutics’ intellectual property or to defend against the intellectual property claims of others, the ability to obtain additional financing to support Acorda Therapeutics’ operations, and unfavorable results from our preclinical programs. These and other risks are described in greater detail in Acorda Therapeutics’ filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Acorda Therapeutics may not actually achieve the goals or plans described in its forward-looking statements, and investors should not place undue reliance on these statements. Acorda Therapeutics disclaims any intent or obligation to update any forward-looking statements as a result of developments occurring after the date of this press release.

MS and Low-Dose Naltrexone (LDN)

For the past several years there has been a bit of a cult following with a drug called LDN (low-dose naltrexone) . While writing at Suite101′s health site, I encountered several readers with MS who promoted the drug in comments sections, as well as a fellow health writer (with hyperthyroidism) who valued and wrote about its merits. There wasn’t much known about the drug then except that it wasn’t FDA-approved for multiple sclerosis patients and it wasn’t clear whether the drug could actually slow MS disease progress. Just recently I read an article from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Momentum magazine with a current view about LDN. Here is what Dr. Allen C. Bowling, a neurologist and professor at the University of Colorado-Denver and Health Sciences Center, reports:

What is Low-Dose Naltrexone?

Dr. Bowling addresses the fact that LDN is getting a great deal of coverage on the internet, including various websites that are run by low-dose naltrexone organizations. Although LDN is reported to help patients with multiple sclerosis, it is considered a CAM or complementary and alternative medicine because it has not been extensively tested for effectiveness in patients with MS. Currently naltrexone is approved for opiate and alcohol addiction, with patients being treated with doses of roughly 50 milligrams/day. Patients who take LDN for MS use about 1.5 to 4.5 milligrams/daily, hence the name.

Naltrexone, which may increase endorphin productivity and increase the body’s sensitivity to it, could very well reduce pain and inflammation, as well as stabilize overall mood. It also may decrease the formation of free radicals (considered harmful) and thus protect nerve cells from injury.

LDN Studies, to Date

Not a great deal of low-dose naltrexone research has been done. Here are some recent studies and their results:

  • Two small, preliminary studies of LDN for EAE (experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis which is an animal model of MS) found that LDN decreased nervous system inflammation, immune cell activation, and possible disease severity. These studies were presented at the annual meeting of the European Congress for Treatment and Research in MS (2008.)
  • A small clinical trial on humans with MS (reported at the same meeting this past year) was conducted at the University of California-San Francisco. 80 people were treated for 8 weeks with either LDN or a placebo. The LDN showed no effect on physical functioning, but it showed an improvement in some patients’ mental health and pain symptoms.
  • 40 primary-progressive MS patients in Italy were studied in 2008. LDN was administered for 6 months, although there was no placebo-treated control group for comparison. Patients noted an improvement in spasticity, but no effects on depression, fatigue, or overall quality of life. Some patients reported a worsening of pain. Only one patient showed a neurological worsening during the treatment.

What Does this Mean to MS Patients?

Dr. Bowling stresses that the preliminary studies still don’t show enough evidence that LDN effectively reduces multiple sclerosis inflammation/nerve attacks in humans and thereby slows MS’s progression in patients. The studies are a good start in the discovery of what low-dose naltrexone is capable of, although the studies on EAE were done on animals and not true MS patients, and the other studies were brief and the results were conflicting.

Questions Dr. Bowling—as well as other neurologists– still have:

  • Does LDN truly and consistently decrease the severity of MS symptoms?
  • Does LDN slow the progression of relapsing and/or progressive MS?
  • Is LDN safe to use on a long-term basis?
  • Does LDN interact with conventional MS medications?

In the meantime, low-dose naltrexone continues to be considered a complimentary and alternative medicine and is being further studied to determine its ability to slow disease progression (like other disease-modifying meds), its long-term safety, and its ability to effectively treat symptoms. At this point, many MS patients have been able to acquire it for “non-MS” use.

For further reference:

Bowling, Allen C, MD. “Low-Dose Naltrexone (LDN): The ’411′ on LDN.” Momentum, the Magazine of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Spring 2009, pp 44 – 46.

What is Tysabri?

Tysabri, a disease-modifying medication indicated for the use of treating numerous autoimmune diseases including multiple sclerosis, is a lab-produced monoclonal antibody. This basically means the drug works to prevent an autoimmune attack where immune cells (for reasons unknown) fight their own body tissues. In the case of multiple sclerosis, this involves the immune system attacking the coverings of the nerves located in the brain and the spinal cord (the central nervous system.)

Tysabri, or its chemical name “natalizumab”, is indicated for use in MS patients who have not tolerated or had favorable results with the disease-modifying injectable drugs– Avonex, Betaseron, Copaxone, or Rebif— or for serious initial multiple sclerosis attacks where a stronger medication is desirable. Tysabri is believed to be about 70 – 75% effective in slowing multiple sclerosis attacks and resulting disability (the injectable drugs have a varying effectiveness of up to roughly 40%.)

Tysabri patients may develop side-effects from use of the drug, including body aches, fatigue, stomach pains, headaches, lowered immunity to certain infections, an allergic reaction upon administration, and other complications. A more serious side effect is the possible development of PML, or progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, a neurological virus that can be fatal. Because of this very serious risk, Tysabri has a structured system for intravenous administration throughout the United States, called the “Touch” prescribing program. It is given by infusion about once a month.

There have been three reported deaths from PML after the use of Tysabri. Two were reported during Phase III clinical trials (2005) where the two patients were taking other immunomodulating medications with the Tysabri. A recent death has been reported in the United States, after several cases of PML were acknowledged this year. Because of these deaths, Tysabri is considered a controversial medication, although thousands of patients worldwide have stabilized and even improved from its use.

****For more information about Tysabri (and its administration), see The National Multiple Sclerosis Society (US), Multiple Sclerosis Trust (UK), The Boston Business Journal (a financial perspective), and The Irish Examiner (Elan, the pharmaceutical company who co-owns the Tysabri patent with American company Biogen, is based in Ireland.)

Rebif for Multiple Sclerosis

Google Images

Rebif, or interferon beta 1- a, is a manufactured  medication used for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. Interferons are naturally-occurring proteins produced by the immune system and they help to ward off infections, although it is not fully understood how interferon medications aid against multiple sclerosis attacks.

Rebif, which has the same composition as the disease-modifying medication Avonex, was introduced in Europe in 1998 and approved by the U.S. FDA in 2002. With regular use, Rebif has been proven to be 30 to 40% effective in reducing multiple sclerosis relapses in some patients. Just like the other disease-modifying medications, *Rebif is not a cure for multiple sclerosis, and it is not effective in every patient.

Rebif Advantages

  • Rebif is administered three times a week, making it one of the least-administered disease-modifying medications
  • Rebif has a higher dose and administration frequency of interferon beta – 1a, so its effectiveness is considered higher than that of Avonex’s, which is the same interferon
  • Rebif comes in easy-to-administer syringes
  • This medication has a proven track record (in Europe) dating back to 1998

Rebif Drawbacks

  • Being one of the interferon medications, Rebif can cause flu-like side-effects: fever, chills, nausea, and body aches
  • Rebif can cause any of the following other side-effects: depression, anemia, seizures (rare), heart abnormalities (rare), abnormal liver function readings, thyroid abnormalities, and reduced immunity to infections and illnesses
  • This medication needs to be refrigerated during certain circumstances

*any decision to take medication should be thoroughly discussed with your doctor

References: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, The National MS Society, All About MS- Rebif

Betaseron for Multiple Sclerosis

Betaseron, Google Images

Betaseron, or beta – 1b, is an interferon medication that is manufactured and used for the treatment of relapsing-remitting MS. Interferons are naturally-occurring proteins produced by the immune system and they help to ward off infections, although it is not fully understood how interferon medications aid against multiple sclerosis attacks.

Betaseron was the first disease-modifying medication to be approved for the use of slowing multiple sclerosis activity: on the market since 1993, it has proven to be approximately 30 to 40% effective against MS relapses and their resulting disability (in some patients.) Just like the other disease-modifying medications, *Betaseron is not a cure for multiple sclerosis, and it is not effective in every patient.

Betaseron Advantages

  • Betaseron has the longest track record of effectiveness out of all the disease-modifying injectable medications
  • This medication comes in easy-to-mix kits. Prior to assembly, it does not need to be refrigerated, so it is very easy to store and transport.
  • Administration is every other day
  • Betaseron has an ultra-thin needle, which makes injections less painful

Betaseron Drawbacks

  • Because it is an interferon, Betaseron can produce temporary flu-like side-effects: fever, chills, body aches, nausea, and/or headaches. It can also cause depression, lowered immunity to certain infections, and liver and thyroid abnormalities. Patients need to be monitored while taking this medication.
  • Betaseron has the second most administrations among the disease-modifying medications
  • This medication can cause injection site reactions: pain, redness, itching, and swelling

*any decision to take medication should be thoroughly discussed with your doctor

References: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, The Nat’l MS Society, All About MS- Betaseron

Copaxone for Multiple Sclerosis

Google Images

Copaxone is a synthetic, injectable medication for relapsing-remitting MS. On the market since 1996, glatiramer acetate (its generic name) has been proven to reduce the rate of relapses in some multiple sclerosis patients by about 30 to 40%. It has also been proven to reduce the amount of new MS lesions a patient may develop, thereby slowing the amount of accumulated disability. Copaxone’s chemical composition is supposed to mimic actual proteins in the body, and it is thought to lure an immune system attack away from real protein-based myelin, or nerve coverings. Like any other MS medication, *Copaxone is not a cure for multiple sclerosis, and it is not always effective in every patient.

Copaxone Advantages

  • this medication is not an interferon, so it does not create the flu-like side-effects that are common with interferon drugs (Avonex, Betaseron, and Rebif)
  • injections come conveniently premade
  • Copaxone has over 10 years’ worth of proven effectiveness
  • this medication does not cause depression or liver/thyroid dysfunctions like interferon medications can

Copaxone Drawbacks

  • Copaxone is a daily injectable– it has the most amount of administrations out of all the disease-modifying injectable meds
  • Copaxone needs to be kept refrigerated during certain circumstances
  • this medication can pose several (rare but brief) side-effects: chest tightening, anxiety, shortness of breath, and flushing just after administration. It can also cause injection site reactions: redness, swelling, itching, and pain

*any decision to take medication should be thoroughly discussed with your doctor

References: All About MS- Copaxone, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Nat’l MS Society (U.S.)

Avonex for Multiple Sclerosis

Avonex, Google Images

There are several injectable disease-modifying drugs on the market today to slow patients’ courses of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. These medications are defenses against the number and severity of future relapses and resulting disability. The drugs range in effectiveness and are therefore used for different severities of RRMS. At this time, these drugs are only indicated for relapsing-remitting MS and are not definitely proven to help progressive courses, although a couple of the medications are still used for this purpose. No medications are 100% effective and there is currently no cure for multiple sclerosis.

Avonex* is one of the said injectable drugs, and like all of the other medications, it comes with its advantages and its drawbacks. It is a manufactured interferon— specifically beta-1a— which is a protein that is also naturally produced by the body. Avonex has been proven to reduce the number and severity of MS relapses in patients, as well as the level of disability caused by relapses, and it has been on the market since 1996.

Avonex’s Advantages:

  • The medication is only administered once a week, as opposed to the other drugs, one of which is injected daily
  • Avonex can be received in prefilled syringes or easy packets which can be mixed by the patient
  • The administration of Avonex causes less site reactions than most of the other medications
  • Avonex has more than 10 years’ worth of proven results

Avonex’s Drawbacks:

  • Being one of the interferon medications, Avonex can cause flu-like side-effects (fever, chills, nausea, and aches) for up to two days after a shot is administered
  • Avonex is the only medication that is injected intramuscularly (IM), and so it has the longest needle
  • Avonex can cause any of the following side-effects: depression, anemia, seizures (rare), heart abnormalities (rare), abnormal liver function readings, thyroid abnormalities, and reduced immunity to infections and illnesses
  • Avonex is thought to be the least effective drug for MS because it has the lowest dose with the least amount of administrations. Rebif, another drug with the same chemical composition, is given at a higher dose (subcutaneously or just under the skin) several times a week.

*any decision to take medication should be thoroughly discussed with your doctor

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