Copaxone (glatiramer) is a prescription drug that’s used in adults to treat certain types of multiple sclerosis and clinically isolated syndrome. Copaxone comes as a liquid solution that you’ll inject under your skin.
Copaxone is a disease-modifying therapy for multiple sclerosis. It contains the active ingredient glatiramer. (An active ingredient is what makes a drug work.)
Copaxone is a brand-name medication that’s also available as the generic drugs glatiramer and Glatopa.
Like most drugs, Copaxone may cause mild or serious side effects. The lists below describe some of the more common side effects that Copaxone may cause. These lists don’t include all possible side effects.
Keep in mind that side effects of a drug can depend on:
- your age
- other health conditions you have
- other medications you take
Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you more about the potential side effects of Copaxone. They can also suggest ways to help reduce side effects.
Mild side effects
Here’s a list of some of the mild side effects that Copaxone can cause. To learn about other mild side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist, or read Copaxone’s prescribing information.
Mild side effects of Copaxone that have been reported include:
- mild injection site reactions, such as pain, swelling, or discoloration of the skin where Copaxone is injected
- flushing (temporary warmth, redness, or deepening of skin color)
- back pain
- weight gain
- dry skin
- mild allergic reaction*
Mild side effects of many drugs may go away within a few days to a couple of weeks. But if they become bothersome, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Allergic reaction” section below.
Serious side effects
Serious side effects from Copaxone can occur, but they aren’t common. If you have serious side effects from Copaxone, call your doctor right away. But if you think you’re having a medical emergency, you should call 911 or your local emergency number.
Serious side effects of Copaxone that have been reported include:
- severe reactions right after a Copaxone injection, such as:
- heart palpitations (feeling like your heart is racing, fluttering, or pounding)
- throat tightness
- trouble breathing
- severe injection site reactions, such as skin damage or lipoatrophy (damage to the fatty layer under your skin, which can leave dents or pits in your skin)
- increased liver enzymes, which may be a sign of liver problems
- severe allergic reaction*
* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Allergic reaction” section below.
Some people may have an allergic reaction to Copaxone.
Symptoms of a mild allergic reaction can include:
A more severe allergic reaction is rare but possible. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can include swelling under your skin, usually in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet. They can also include swelling of your tongue, mouth, or throat, which can cause trouble breathing.
Call your doctor right away if you have an allergic reaction to Copaxone. But if you think you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number.
Your doctor will recommend the dosage of Copaxone that’s right for you. Below are commonly used dosages, but always take the dosage your doctor prescribes.
Form and strengths
Copaxone comes as a liquid solution in a single-dose, prefilled syringe. You’ll inject the drug under your skin. Copaxone is available in two strengths: 20 milligrams in 1 milliliter of solution (mg/mL) and 40 mg/mL.
There are two possible dosages for Copaxone:
- 20 mg injected once daily
- 40 mg injected three times per week (at least 48 hours apart)
You and your doctor will determine the Copaxone dosage schedule that’s best for you. To learn more about Copaxone’s dosage, see this article.
How to use
You’ll receive your first dose of Copaxone at your doctor’s office.
After that, your doctor may teach you or a caregiver how to give the injections at home. They’ll also explain how much to use and how often. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions.
You’ll store Copaxone in the refrigerator. Before giving yourself a dose, you should take the drug out of the refrigerator and keep it at room temperature for 20 minutes. Injecting the drug when it’s cold can make the injection more uncomfortable.
Questions about using Copaxone
Below are some common questions about using Copaxone.
- Is there a best time of day to inject Copaxone? Copaxone can be injected at any time of day, but it’s best to use it around the same time each day. This helps keep a consistent level of the drug in your body, which helps Copaxone work effectively.
- What if I miss a dose of Copaxone? What to do if you miss a dose depends on how you receive the drug and your dosage:
- If you give yourself injections and miss a 20-milligram (mg) dose of Copaxone, inject it as soon as you remember (after letting the drug sit at room temperature for 20 minutes). But if it’s almost time to take your next dose, skip the missed dose and take the next dose at its usual time.
- If you give yourself injections and miss a 40-mg dose of Copaxone, inject it as soon as you remember (after letting the drug sit at room temperature for 20 minutes). Then, wait at least 48 hours before injecting your next 40-mg dose.
- With either dosage, you should not use two doses at once to make up for a missed dose. Doing so could raise your risk of side effects.
- If you receive Copaxone at your doctor’s office and miss an injection appointment, call your doctor’s office as soon as possible to reschedule.
- Will I need to use Copaxone long term? Yes, Copaxone is usually a long-term treatment. You’ll likely continue using it as long as you and your doctor determine that the drug is safe for you and effective for your condition.
Do not take more Copaxone than your doctor prescribes. Using more than this can lead to negative effects.
What to do in case you take too much Copaxone
Call your doctor if you think you’ve taken too much Copaxone. You can also call 800-222-1222 to reach America’s Poison Centers or use its online resource. But if you have severe symptoms, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number. Or go to the nearest emergency room.
Find answers to some commonly asked questions about Copaxone.
Does Copaxone cause long-term side effects?
It’s possible. Lipoatrophy is a long-term side effect reported in studies of Copaxone. This condition causes damage to the fatty layer under your skin, which can leave permanent dents or pits in your skin at the injection site.*
Talk with your doctor to learn more about possible side effects of Copaxone and how long they may last.
* Using proper injection technique and rotating the injection sites may help prevent this side effect. If you inject the drug at home, your doctor or another healthcare professional will show you how to do it.
Does Copaxone cause hair loss?
It’s not likely. Hair loss wasn’t reported as a side effect in Copaxone studies.
If you experience hair loss that bothers you while using Copaxone, talk with your doctor.
Does Copaxone cause teeth-related side effects?
It’s possible. Tooth cavities were reported as a frequent side effect in Copaxone studies.
To help prevent or manage this side effect, be sure to practice good dental hygiene during your Copaxone treatment. This includes brushing and flossing your teeth twice daily and having professional cleanings and check-ups with a dentist.
If you experience dental problems that bother you during your Copaxone treatment, talk with your doctor. And you should see a dentist to treat any tooth problems that arise during your treatment.
Is Copaxone an immunosuppressant?
Immunosuppressants work by blocking the usual functions of the immune system in a broad way. On the other hand, immunomodulators are more targeted. They alter certain processes within the immune system while leaving other aspects of the immune system alone.
If you have other questions about how Copaxone works, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
Copaxone is used to treat certain types of multiple sclerosis (MS) in adults. With MS, the immune system mistakenly attacks the protective lining of nerve cells, resulting in inflammation and damage. This may cause symptoms such as muscle weakness, balance problems, numbness, and fatigue (low energy).
Copaxone is also used to treat clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) in adults. See below for details on these uses.
- Relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS). With RRMS, you have episodes of MS symptoms (called relapses) and periods where symptoms are eased or go away (called remission).
- Active secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS). With SPMS, your MS symptoms are steadily getting worse and you no longer have periods of remission.
- CIS. This is a short-term condition that causes MS-like symptoms. Someone who experiences CIS may or may not develop MS in the future.
It’s not fully known how Copaxone works to treat RRMS, SPMS, or CIS. But it’s thought that the drug helps prevent your immune system from attacking your nerve cells. This may help slow or delay the worsening of your condition.
Whether you have health insurance or not, cost may be a factor when you’re considering Copaxone. What you’ll pay for Copaxone may depend on several things, such as your treatment plan and the pharmacy you use.
Here are a few things to consider regarding cost:
- Generic form: Copaxone is available as the generic drugs glatiramer and Glatopa. Generics usually cost less than brand-name drugs. Talk with your doctor if you’d like to know whether glatiramer or Glatopa could be an option for you.
- Savings program: If you have questions about how to pay for your prescription, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. A program called Shared Solutions may also be available.
You can also check out this article to learn more about saving money on prescriptions.
Other drugs are available that can treat your condition. If you’d like to explore an alternative to Copaxone, talk with your doctor. They can tell you about other medications that might work well for you.
The following drugs are similar to Copaxone:
Below is important information you should consider before using Copaxone.
Taking a drug with certain medications, vaccines, foods, and other things can affect how the drug works. These effects are called interactions.
Before starting Copaxone treatment, talk with your doctor and pharmacist. Tell them about all prescription, over-the-counter, and other drugs you take. Also, tell them about any vitamins, herbs, and supplements you take. Sharing this information can help you avoid potential interactions.
If you have questions about drug interactions that may affect you, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
It’s not known whether it’s safe to use Copaxone during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, or planning to become pregnant or to breastfeed, talk with your doctor before starting Copaxone treatment.
Copaxone can sometimes cause harmful effects in people who have certain conditions. This is known as a drug-condition interaction. Other factors may also affect whether Copaxone is a good treatment option for you.
Talk with your doctor about your health history before you take Copaxone. Be sure to tell them if any of the following factors apply to you:
- previous allergic reaction to Copaxone or mannitol (an inactive ingredient in Copaxone)
If you have questions about Copaxone treatment, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. Questions you may want to ask include:
- Are there any oral medications similar to Copaxone that would be right for me?
- How should I manage side effects of Copaxone?
- Should I make any diet or lifestyle changes that may help with my condition while using Copaxone?
To learn more about Copaxone, see these articles:
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Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.