Innovations in Multiple Sclerosis Treatment

Primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS) doesn’t have a cure, but many options exist for managing the condition. Treatment focuses on alleviating symptoms while lowering the possibility of permanent disability.

Your doctor should be your first source for treating PPMS. They can offer you management advice as they monitor the progression of the disease.

However, you still might be interested in exploring additional resources for PPMS treatment. Learn about the possibilities here.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) conducts ongoing research into all types of multiple sclerosis (MS).

The NINDS is a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and is supported by government funding. The NINDS is currently investigating drugs that can modify myelin and genes that could potentially prevent the onset of PPMS.

Therapeutic drugs

In 2017, ocrelizumab (Ocrevus) was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of PPMS and relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS). This injectable drug is the first and only PPMS drug on the market.

According to the NINDS, other drugs in development also show promise. These therapeutic drugs would work by preventing myelin cells from becoming inflamed and turning into lesions. They could either protect myelin cells or help repair them after an inflammatory attack.

The oral drug cladribine (Mavenclad) is one such example.

Other drugs being investigated could potentially promote the development of oligodendrocytes. Oligodendrocytes are specific brain cells that would aid in the creation of new myelin cells.

Gene modifications

The precise cause of PPMS — and MS overall — is unknown. A genetic component is thought to contribute to disease development. Researchers continue to study the role of genes in PPMS.

The NINDS refers to genes that might increase the risk of MS as “susceptibility genes.” The organization is looking into drugs that could modify these genes before MS develops.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is another organization that offers updates on innovations in treatment.

Unlike the NINDS, the Society is a nonprofit organization. Their mission is to spread awareness about MS while also raising funds to support medical research.

As a part of its mission to support patient advocacy, the Society frequently updates the resources on its website. Because drug options are limited, you may find the society’s resources on rehabilitation beneficial. Here they outline:

  • physical therapy
  • occupational therapy
  • cognitive rehabilitation
  • vocational therapy (for jobs)
  • speech-language pathology

Physical and occupational therapies are the most common forms of rehabilitation in PPMS. Following are some of the current innovations involving these two therapies.

Physical therapy and research in exercise

Physical therapy (PT) is used as a form of rehabilitation in PPMS. The goals of PT can vary based on the severity of your symptoms. It’s primarily used to:

  • help people with PPMS perform everyday tasks
  • encourage independence
  • improve safety — for example, teaching balancing techniques that can reduce risk of falls
  • reduce the chances of disability
  • provide emotional support
  • determine the need for assistive devices at home
  • improve overall quality of life

Your doctor will likely recommend physical therapy soon after your initial diagnosis. Being proactive about this treatment option is important — don’t wait until your symptoms progress.

Exercise is an important part of PT. It helps improve your mobility, strength, and range of motion so you can maintain independence.

Researchers are also continuing to look at the benefits of aerobic exercise in all forms of MS. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, exercise wasn’t widely recommended until the mid-1990s. This is when the theory that exercise wasn’t good for MS was finally debunked.

Your physical therapist can recommend aerobic exercises you can perform — safely — in between appointments to improve your symptoms and build your strength.

Innovations in occupational therapy

Occupational therapy is increasingly being recognized as an asset in PPMS treatment. It can be useful for self-care and at work, and it can also help with:

  • leisure activities
  • recreation
  • socializing
  • volunteering
  • home management

OT is often perceived as being the same as PT. Although these therapies complement each other, they each are responsible for different aspects of PPMS treatment.

PT can support your overall strength and mobility, and OT can help with activities that affect your independence, such as bathing and getting dressed on your own. It’s recommended that people with PPMS seek both PT and OT evaluations and subsequent treatment.

You can also read about current and emerging PPMS treatments at This is another branch of the NIH. Their mission is to provide a “database of privately and publicly funded clinical studies conducted around the world.”

Enter “PPMS” into the “Condition or disease” field. You’ll find numerous active and completed studies involving medications and other factors that can affect the disease.

Additionally, you might consider participating in a clinical trial yourself. This is a serious commitment. In order to ensure your own safety, you should discuss clinical trials with your doctor first.

There’s no cure for PPMS, and drug options are limited. Research is still being done to explore drugs other than ocrelizumab that can help control progressive symptoms.

In addition to checking in with your doctor regularly, use these resources to keep informed about the latest updates within PPMS research. Much work is being done to better understand PPMS and to treat people more effectively.