Many disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) are available to treat MS. Other medications can be used to manage symptoms, too. As your health and lifestyle change over time, your prescribed treatment might also change. The development and approval of new drugs may also affect your treatment plan.
If you change medications or add a new medication to your treatment plan, it can affect your health, lifestyle, and budget. Here are some of the ways it might affect you.
In many cases, the goal of adjusting your treatment plan is to relieve symptoms, reduce side effects from medication, or otherwise improve your condition. Switching medications might help you feel better. You might experience small changes or drastic improvements.
If you think that your medication is improving your condition, let your doctor know. This can help them learn how well your treatment plan is working.
Sometimes, changes to your treatment plan don’t have the desired effect. New medications might not work as well as medications that you tried previously. Or you might develop side effects from the new drug.
It can take time for medication to have a noticeable effect on your health. But if you think a new medication is making you feel worse or causing side effects, talk to your doctor. They might adjust your dosage or prescribe a different drug.
If they suspect that another medication or supplement is interacting with the drug, they might recommend changes to your wider treatment plan.
Q: Are MS flare-ups after treatment normal?
A: Multiple sclerosis (MS) flare-ups can happen after stopping disease-modifying therapy (DMT).
MS is treated on an ongoing basis with DMT to prevent flare-ups and progression. Over 15 different DMTs are available for treating MS, and people usually take a single DMT for many years. MS flare-ups are managed with high dose steroids or other immunosuppressant treatments.
Some people may want to stop taking DMTs due to side effects or inconvenience. The decision to stop your DMT can be a major one because a flare-up can occur within weeks or months after discontinuing a DMT. This doesn’t always happen, but it’s one of the risks of stopping therapy.
Once you stop taking DMT, you may be at risk for more severe or frequent MS flare-ups if you’ve experienced them in the past. Instead of stopping, you can talk with your doctor about switching to another DMT that might have fewer side effects or is more convenient for you.
Flare-ups are treated with short-term strong immunosuppressant treatments, such as steroids, and most people don’t have flare-ups soon after that treatment is finished.Heidi Moawad, MDAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
Some DMTs are taken orally, in pill form. Others are injected into your muscle or the fat below your skin. Others are infused through an intravenous line.
If you use an oral or injectable DMT, you can give yourself the medication at home. Depending on the specific type of DMT, you might have to take it twice a day, once a day, or less frequently.
If you use an intravenous DMT, you will probably have to visit a clinic to receive your infusion. In some cases, you can arrange for a nurse to visit you at home to administer the infusion. The infusion schedule varies from one intravenous medication to another.
You might find some medication regimens more convenient or comfortable than others. If you’re forgetful, you might find it hard to remember to take a pill or injection every day. If you’re afraid of needles, it might be difficult to give yourself injections. If you don’t drive, it might be challenging to arrange travel to infusion appointments.
Your doctor can consider how your lifestyle and habits may affect your treatment. Let them know if you have preferences or concerns.
DMTs can cause side effects, some of which can be serious. To check for potential side effects, your doctor will order lab tests. Depending on the specific medication that you take, your doctor might order one or more of the following:
- routine blood tests
- routine urine tests
- heartbeat monitoring
If you change medications, you might need to undergo more frequent lab tests to check for side effects. Or you might need less frequent tests. In some cases, you might need to register in a drug safety monitoring program.
To learn how your lab test schedule will change with your new treatment plan, talk to your doctor.
Changes to your prescribed treatment plan can increase your monthly expenses — or lower them. The cost of medication varies widely from one drug to another. There may also be costs associated with the lab tests that your doctor orders to check for side effects.
If you have health insurance, some medications and tests might be covered while others are not. To learn if your insurance covers a medication or test, contact your insurance provider. Ask them how much you can expect to pay in copayment and coinsurance fees. In some cases, it might make sense to switch to a different insurance plan.
If you’re struggling to afford your current treatment plan, talk to your doctor. They might advise you to start taking a less expensive drug. Or they might know of a subsidy or rebate program that can help save you money.
After you start taking a new medication, you might feel better or worse in terms of symptoms and side effects. Depending on how your medication is taken, it might affect your overall lifestyle and ability to follow your prescribed treatment plan. It might also affect your budget. If you’re having trouble adjusting to a new medication, let your doctor know.