Types of drugs
Medications for MS are generally classified into three categories:
- Disease-modifying drugs (DMD) or immunotherapy to reduce relapse rates and slow the progression of the disease. These include immunomodulating or immunosuppressing drugs to inhibit or suppress the activity of the immune system.
- Steroid medication to reduce the severity of symptoms caused by a relapse.
- Medications to manage the symptoms MS can cause in individuals, such as pain, stiffness/spasms and incontinence.
This page and the following information sheets focus solely on MS DMDs.
Medication Fact Sheets
These are listed in alphabetical order by brand name, with the generic name in brackets.
Aubagio® (for RRMS) has been shown to reduce the frequency of relapses and delay progression of physical disability by stopping certain immune cells involved in the damage associated with MS from multiplying.
Aubagio (teriflunomide) PDF fact sheet
Avonex® (for RRMS) has been shown to slow down activity and disease progression in MS, by reducing both inflammation and the immune response that is attacking the body’s own myelin.
Avonex (interferon beta-1a) PDF fact sheet
Betaferon® (for RRMS) is used to reduce the accumulation of permanent physical disability, exacerbation frequency and disease activity, by reducing inflammation and the immune response that is attacking the body’s own myelin.
Betaferon (interferon beta-1b) PDF fact sheet
Copaxone® (for RRMS) reduces the accumulation of permanent physical disability, exacerbation frequency and disease activity by acting as a “chemical decoy” which diverts an immune attack away from the myelin.
Copaxone (glatiramer acetate) PDF fact sheet
Gilenya® (for RRMS) reduces damage to the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, by preventing white blood cells (lymphocytes) from crossing from the lymph glands into the central nervous system and causing inflammation and damage.
Gilenya (fingolimod) PDF fact sheet
Kesimpta® (for RRMS) is a self-administered therapy used to delay the progression of physical disability and reduce the frequency of a relapse.
Kesimpta® (ofatumumab) PDF fact sheet
Lemtrada® (for RRMS) may reduce the impact of the disease on the nervous system by binding to and killing immune cells involved when the immune system attacks myelin. It is thought that immune cells which grow back after treatment do not cause damage to nerves.
Lemtrada (alemtuzumab) PDF fact sheet
Ocrevus® (for RRMS and PPMS) is used to delay the progression of physical disability and to reduce the frequency of relapse by attacking and destroying specific targets in the immune system thought to be involved when the immune system attacks the myelin around nerve cells.
Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) PDF fact sheet
Mavenclad® (for RRMS) is used to reduce inflammation in the nervous system caused by MS, resulting in fewer relapses, less disease activity in the brain and less progression of disability by reducing the number of certain types of white blood cells, thought to be involved in the abnormal immune response which attacks the myelin coating of nerve cells.
MAVENCLAD (Cladribine) PDF fact sheet
Mayzent® (for SPMS) is used to reduce immune attack on nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord by causing white blood cells (lymphocytes) to be retained in the lymph glands thus decreasing the number of these cells circulating in the blood and reaching the brain.
Mayzent (siponomod) PDF fact sheet
Plegridy® (for RRMS) has been shown to slow down activity and disease progression in MS by reducing both inflammation and the immune response that is attacking the body’s own myelin.
Plegridy (peginterferon beta-1a) PDF fact sheet
Rebif® (for RRMS) has been shown to slow down activity and disease progression in MS, by helping regulate the immune system, reducing attacks on myelin, and as a result, significantly decreasing the frequency of MS relapses and slowing down the accrual of disability.
Rebif (interferon beta-1a) PDF fact sheet
Tecfidera® (for RRMS) can reduce relapse rates and delay the progression of disability by reducing the inflammation caused when the immune system attacks myelin and protecting nerve cells from damage caused during the immune attack.
Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate) PDF fact sheet
Tysabri® (for RRMS) is used to reduce the accumulation of permanent physical disability, exacerbation frequency and disease activity by binding to immune cells in the blood stream, preventing them from passing from the blood into the central nervous system where they can damage nerves.
Tysabri (natalizumab) PDF fact sheet
Zeposia ® (for RRMS) can stop some white blood cells from reaching the central nervous system (the brain, spine and optic nerve), where they can cause inflammation and damage, helping to protect against attacks on the nerves, reduce inflammation and damage to the nerves’ protective coating and slow down the progression of disability
Zeposia (ozanimod) PDF fact sheet
Choosing the right treatment for you
With the variable nature of MS and the different ways each person responds to medications, there is no single solution that will be suitable for all people with MS. Most treatments have not been tested against each other, so it is impossible to make comparisons about the effectiveness of one treatment over another. Your choice of treatment is a personal one and many non-MS circumstances may affect treatment choices for each individual. These may include employment, family planning, travel, other medications and other existing medical conditions.
If you are looking at starting your first DMD or you are looking at changing medications to manage your MS, our specialist MS Nurses are available to answer any questions about these drugs and work with you and your Neurologist to find the best option for you. There is no ‘one size fits all’. You can discuss the pros and cons of each type of treatment, such as how the drugs work, possible side effects and how the medications are taken, and together reach a decision about which medication may work best for you and your circumstances.
Lifestyle choices and self-management
Many people with MS find that changes to lifestyle choices and the incorporation of exercise, mindfulness, and other healthy activities can make a positive impact on the management of their symptoms. MS Queensland offers a range of services including neurophysiotherapy and exercise prescription, mindfulness workshops, and information and resources on diet, nutrition and other aspects of living well with MS.
Learn more about how to live well with MS
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