Today’s treatments for multiple sclerosis primarily aim to slow down the progression of the disease, prevent the development of further complications and alleviate the existing symptoms. At present there is no specific cure for multiple sclerosis and thus no medical treatment can completely eliminate the disease. In addition, the medications used in multiple sclerosis treatments can’t reverse the nerve damage caused by multiple sclerosis; they can only prevent future damage by minimizing the destructive potential of various factors that sustain the disease (multiple sclerosis involves an autoimmune response of the body, determining the immune system to destroy healthy nerve cells instead of intruding infectious agents). However, patients who receive the appropriate treatment timely and in the right doses can live normal, active lives and gain control over their symptoms.
The medications that have proved very efficient in controlling the progression of multiple sclerosis and alleviating its symptoms are Avonex, Betaseron and Copaxone. Popular under the name of “ABC drugs”, Avonex, Betaseron and Copaxone are extensively used to counter symptoms such as fatigue and muscular weakness, manifestations that have been associated with multiple sclerosis and various other resembling autoimmune disorders. Although Avonex, Betaseron and Copaxone all have distinctive characteristics, they all have the same goal – to reduce the damage caused by the dysfunctional immune system to healthy nervous cells by various biological mechanisms. Administered in the appropriate dose, each distinctive medication from the category of “ABC drugs” can reduce the frequency and intensity of multiple sclerosis by up to a third.
Avonex (Beta-interferon-1a) – This medication is commonly used in the treatment of multiple sclerosis and is administered under the form of intramuscular injections. Avonex can substantially reduce inflammation at the level of the affected nerve cells and can slow down the process of demyelization (the process of myelin destruction). Administered to patients in early stages of multiple sclerosis, Avonex can prevent the occurrence of complications such as dysfunctions of the motor system (which includes muscles and connective tissues), loss of balance, visual and hearing problems, speech problems, memory problems and other similar cognitive impairments (occur when various areas of the brain are affected by multiple sclerosis).
Although Avonex can produce side-effects such as fever, chills, muscular discomfort and pain, these symptoms are not very intense and only last for a few hours after the injection. The side-effects of Avonex can be controlled by using ibuprofen or acetaminophen-based drugs before or soon after each injection.
Betaseron (Beta-interferon-1b) – This drug is also very effective in controlling the symptoms of multiple sclerosis and reducing the risks of complications. Betaseron is administered under the form of non-painful subcutaneous injections and is well tolerated by most patients. Occasionally, Betaseron can produce side-effects such as skin irritation at the site of injection, moderate fever and fatigue. The drug is the primary choice in the treatment of secondary-progressive multiple sclerosis, a subtype of the disease characterized by gradual progression.
Copaxone (Glatiramer acetate or Copolymer-1) – Included in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, this medication is also very efficient in alleviating symptoms and preventing the occurrence of complications. The drug is delivered under the form of subcutaneous injections. Compared to the previously described drugs, Copaxone has very few side-effects and is very well tolerated by most patients. Copaxone is considered to be a safe medication and is suitable for most categories of patients with multiple sclerosis