Copaxone is very similar to the protein called myelin, which covers the nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord. This drug helps block certain white blood cells called T cells that can damage the myelin on your nerve cells.
Copaxone is also a man-made protein, and your body can react to the drug. That can cause different side effects.
Copaxone is injected subcutaneously, which means under your skin. The dosage is either 20 milligrams (mg) per day or 40 mg three times per week. The drug comes packaged in prefilled syringes to make it easier to use. You should have your first injection of this drug in your doctor’s office or with a visiting nurse.
Effects of Copaxone
Copaxone changes the immune response that affects multiple sclerosis (MS). That means it could possibly affect your immune response to other invaders or diseases. This has not been well studied.
Copaxone is antigenic, which means that your body can make antibodies to the drug. This can cause you to have a reaction to the drug itself, like wheezing, hives, or anaphylaxis.
Skin and Muscles
Some people experience damage to the fatty tissue under your skin when taking Copaxone. This is called lipoatrophy. Rarely, the skin in the injection area can die. The damage to the tissue under your skin can make a dent that may not go away.
To help prevent this damage, follow your doctor’s orders for how to give yourself injections and be sure to use a different location for each injection. Copaxone comes with clear pictures that show the best locations for giving the injection, which include:
- your stomach area around the belly button
- the back of your upper arms
- your upper hips below your waist
- your thighs above your knees
Other reactions in the place where you inject the drug can include:
In the warnings and precautions section of the FDA label, people who injected the high dose of Copaxone three times per week had a lower rate of these side effects compared to those who injected the smaller dose every day.
You may also experience redness in your cheeks of other parts of your body. This could be a sign of a serious reaction to Copaxone. Call your doctor or 911 right away if you experience this side effect.
Another serious side effect that may indicate an allergic reaction is swelling, rash, or hives. Call your doctor right away if this happens suddenly.
Some people also have back pain or muscle pain while taking Copaxone.
Pain in your chest, especially if it’s sudden, could be a serious reaction. Chest pain can last a few minutes and often happens about a month after you start using Copaxone. You could experience chest pain with the other side effects or by itself. Call your doctor right away if this happens to you.
You may also experience a rapid heartbeat. If your heart rate goes up after your injection, call your doctor immediately.
Nausea and vomiting are among the more common side effects of Copaxone.
Copaxone has been known to cause breathing problems or tightness in your throat. Trouble breathing or feeling like your throat is closing up is a medical emergency. Call your doctor or 911 immediately if you have trouble breathing or if you feel like your throat is closing up.
If you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant, talk to your doctor before using Copaxone. It’s not known if it could affect your unborn child or if it’s passed through breastfeeding.