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What are the benefits of DMDs for people with multiple sclerosis (MS)?

People with multiple sclerosis (MS) who take their disease-modifying drugs (DMDs), as directed, are more likely to have less relapses, less disability and less changes on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. Recent research has explored the concept of sustained freedom from disease activity. For some people, the DMDs stop clinical relapses, disease progression and MRI activity. 

To put it concisely:

  • DMDs are not cures.
  • DMDs are partially effective.
  • DMDs may cause side effects.
  • DMDs are not designed to control individual symptoms.
  • DMDs may reduce the number of MS relapses.
  • DMDs may reduce the severity of MS relapses.
  • DMDs may reduce the chances for progression of disability.
  • DMDs may prevent new or worsening MRI changes.
  • DMDs may prevent brain tissue loss (atrophy).
  • DMDs may even lead to sustained freedom from disease activity.

Although DMDs are not FDA-approved to control individual MS symptoms, many people with MS report that their MS symptoms improve (and even disappear) once they have been taking their DMDs for a while. Doctors think that this happens because MS involves a person’s own immune system attacking itself. This neuroinflammation can lead to symptoms originating from different parts of the central nervous system—the brain, optic nerves, cervical and thoracic spinal cord. DMDs not only modify MS by helping to prevent future relapses and disability, but also reduce inflammation by modulating the immune system. Reducing inflammation can lead to reduction in MS symptoms, and that is why some people feel better on their DMDs.

Sometimes the benefits of disease-modifying drugs (DMDs) is counteracted by potential tolerability side effects that may make someone feel like their multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms are not improving.

This is why it is important to talk to your neurologist about how your DMD makes you feel and to discuss all your options. If you stop taking your DMD on a regular basis but don’t tell your neurologist, then you may be making tolerability side effects more likely. (For example, flu-like symptoms seem to be worse when you don’t take the beta interferons consistently.) Also, you are not taking advantage of the benefits of fully controlling your MS disease process. If you aren’t having perfect control of your MS from your DMD, don’t despair. Your neurologist is well equipped and trained to help guide you through your options. There is presently no cure for MS, yet all the DMDs are partially effective, and the benefit of staying on your current DMD may outweigh the risks of stopping it or of switching to another DMD. Sometimes, however, your neurologist may work with you on transitioning from one DMD to another.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.