Though there’s no cure for multiple sclerosis, there are many new treatment options aimed at slowing its progression, decreasing symptoms, and improving mental and physical function.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease that affects your central nervous system. Nerves are normally coated in a protective covering called myelin, which also speeds up the transmission of nerve signals. People with MS experience inflammation of areas of myelin and progressive deterioration and loss of myelin.

Nerves may function abnormally when myelin is damaged. This can cause a number of unpredictable symptoms, including:

  • pain, tingling, or burning sensations throughout your body
  • vision loss
  • difficulty moving
  • muscle spasms or stiffness
  • difficulty with balance
  • slurred speech
  • impaired memory and thinking

Years of dedicated research have led to new treatments for MS. While there’s still no cure for the disease, drug regimens and physical therapy can help people with MS to enjoy a better quality of life.

Learn about MS statistics including prevalence, demographics, risk factors, and more.

Many treatment options can help manage the course and symptoms of this chronic disease. Treatment can help to:

  • slow the progression of MS
  • minimize symptoms during MS worsening or flare-ups
  • improve physical and mental function

Treatment in the form of support groups or talk therapy can also provide much-needed emotional support.

Anyone who receives a diagnosis of a relapsing form or progressive form of MS will most likely begin treatment with a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved disease-modifying therapy (DMT). This includes individuals who experience a first clinical event consistent with MS.

Treatment with a disease-changing drug should continue indefinitely unless the person taking it has a poor response, experiences intolerable side effects, or doesn’t take the drug as prescribed.

Treatment might also change if a better option becomes available.

Though there are a multitude of other medications and treatment methods available for MS, below are a few promising options.

Gilenya (fingolimod)

In 2010, Gilenya became the first oral drug for relapsing types of MS to be approved by the FDA. Reports suggest that Gilenya can help decrease relapses and slow the progression of the disease.

It’s currently approved for clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), secondary progressive MS, and relapsing remitting MS, which is a common form of the disease in which you typically go into remission for a period of time before your symptoms worsen.

Teriflunomide (Aubagio)

A main goal of MS treatment is to slow down the progression of the disease by using disease-changing medications. One such medication is the oral drug teriflunomide (Aubagio). It was approved for use in people with relapsing remitting MS in 2012.

Some research has found that taking teriflunomide could help lower your relapse rate and decrease loss of brain volume more effectively compared with a placebo in people with MS.

Dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera)

Dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera), formerly known as BG-12, is an oral disease-changing drug that became available to people with MS in 2013. A generic form of the drug was also approved by the FDA in 2020.

Both are approved for CIS, relapsing remitting MS, and secondary progressive MS.

This medication stops your immune system from attacking itself and destroying myelin. It may also have a protective effect on your body, similar to the effect that antioxidants have. The medication is available in capsule form.

People with relapsing remitting MS may benefit from twice-daily doses of this medication.

Diroximel fumarate (Vumerity)

Diroximel fumarate (Vumerity) is an oral DMT used to treat CIS, relapsing remitting MS, and secondary progressive MS by lowering inflammation and protecting against damage to the brain and spinal cord.

Once in the body, the drug converts to the same active ingredient as Tecfidera. Though the two medications are similar in structure, Vumerity is generally more well-tolerated and associated with fewer digestive side effects.

Monomethyl fumarate (Bafiertam)

Monomethyl fumarate (Bafiertam) is another oral medication that’s similar to Tecfidera and Vumerity but with a distinct chemical structure. It’s approved to treat CIS, relapsing remitting MS, and secondary progressive MS.

Bafiertam is thought to help alter your body’s immune response to decrease inflammation. It may also act as an antioxidant to prevent damage to your central nervous system.

Alemtuzumab (Lemtrada)

Alemtuzumab (Lemtrada) is a humanized monoclonal antibody and another disease-changing agent approved to treat relapsing remitting MS.

Though it’s not known exactly how alemtuzumab works, it’s believed to bind to cluster of differentiation 52, a protein found on the surface of immune cells, and cause lysis, or breakdown of the cell. The drug was first approved to treat leukemia at a much higher dose.

The FDA initially rejected the application for Lemtrada’s approval in early 2014, citing the need for more clinical trials showing that the benefit outweighs the risk of serious side effects.

Though Lemtrada was later approved by the FDA in November 2014, it comes with a warning about serious autoimmune conditions, stroke, blood vessel tears, infusion reactions, and increased risk of malignancies such as melanoma and other cancers.

Lemtrada was compared with another MS drug, Rebif, in one review of several trials, which found that it was better at reducing the relapse rate and the worsening of disability over 2 years.

Due to its safety profile, the FDA recommends that Lemtrada should only be prescribed to people who have had an inadequate response to two or more other MS treatments.

Siponimod (Mayzent)

Siponimod (Mayzent) is a type of oral DMT known as a sphingosine 1-phosphate receptor modulator. It works by keeping certain white blood cells in the lymph nodes to prevent them from entering the central nervous system.

According to one review published in CNS Drugs, siponimod may help significantly lower disease activity and slow the progression of disability compared with a placebo. These benefits may be sustained for up to 5 years during treatment, though more long-term research is needed.

Mayzent is currently approved to treat CIS, relapsing remitting MS, and secondary progressive MS.

Cladribine (Mavenclad)

Cladribine (Mavelclad) is an oral disease-changing medication that’s approved for the treatment of relapsing remitting MS and secondary progressive MS.

It works by lowering the number of certain types of immune cells, known as T and B lymphocytes, which drive the immune response associated with MS.

Mavenclad has been linked to several adverse effects, including an increased risk of cancer, liver injury, and bone marrow suppression, among others. Therefore, it’s currently only recommended for people who have an inadequate response to or are unable to tolerate an alternate drug for MS.

B-cell therapies

B-cell therapies target B cells, a type of white blood cell that can contribute to nerve damage in MS. This type of treatment aims to help decrease relapses and slow the progression of MS.

The FDA has approved two such medications for the treatment of relapsing forms of MS, including ocrelizumab (Ocrevus) and ofatumumab (Kesimpta).

Studies show that Ocrevus, which is administered as an infusion, may help prevent relapses and slow the progression of disability in people with primary progressive MS.

It’s currently the only drug that’s approved by the FDA for the treatment of primary progressive MS. It’s also approved to treat CIS, relapsing remitting MS, and secondary progressive MS.

Meanwhile, Kesimpta is an injection that’s administered once per week for 3 weeks, followed by only once per month. Studies have found that it may be more effective than other treatments, such as teriflunomide, at lowering the rate of relapse and slowing progression of disability.

Kesimpta is approved to treat CIS, relapsing remitting MS, and secondary progressive MS.

Dalfampridine (Ampyra)

MS-induced myelin destruction affects the way nerves send and receive signals. This can affect movement and mobility. Potassium channels are like pores on the surface of nerve fibers. Blocking the channels can improve the nerve conduction in affected nerves.

Unlike some other medications, dalfampridine (Ampyra) is a potassium channel blocker and not a DMT. It’s sometimes prescribed to treat walking impairments caused by MS and is sometimes used alongside DMTs.

According to one 2021 review, dalfampridine could help improve walking ability, brain function, and finger dexterity in people with MS.

Modified story memory technique

MS affects cognitive function as well. It can negatively affect memory, concentration, and executive functions such as organization and planning.

Modified story memory technique is a promising treatment that helps people retain new memories and recall information by using a story-based association between imagery and context. This technique might help someone with MS remember various items on a shopping list, for example.

According to one small study published in Multiple Sclerosis, this technique was able to improve memory performance in people with progressive MS. What’s more, improvements in memory still kept up even 3 months after the study.

Myelin peptides

Myelin becomes irreversibly damaged in people with MS.

Though more high quality, recent studies are needed, a 2021 review noted that a possible new therapy using a myelin peptide skin patch may hold promise.

According to the review, one small study evaluated the effects of this therapy using a skin patch containing myelin peptides (protein fragments). The skin patch was worn by one group of subjects over a 1-year period, while others received a placebo.

People who received the myelin peptides experienced significantly fewer lesions and relapses than people who received the placebo. Furthermore, those who received the skin patch tolerated the treatment well, and there were no serious adverse events.

Effective MS treatments vary from person to person. What works well for one person won’t necessarily work for another.

The medical community continues to learn more about the disease and how to best treat it. Research combined with trial and error are key to finding a cure.