Some MS medications are infusion treatments, which means that the medication is a liquid that is administered directly into the bloodstream through a vein in your arm.
Infusion treatments are typically given in several different settings: a specially equipped doctor's office, an infusion center, or a hospital. Your vital signs will be recorded before, during, and after the medication is administered, and you will be asked to watch for any type of allergic reaction such as hives, chills, itching, or rash. Allergic reactions are rare but can occur any time after the treatment is administered, most often within several hours after an infusion.
The DMTs have been found to reduce the relapse rate in people with MS by 30 percent. They do not reverse the effects and symptoms of MS that have already developed or become permanent before the treatment is started. The treatments won't make you feel better, but may be your best line of defense against future relapses.
Immunosuppressants are medications that shut down the body's immune system. These drugs are primarily used to treat cancer and are used in individuals with MS in whom the disease is worsening and first-line drug therapies, such as the interferons or Copaxone, have not been effective.
Novantrone (EMD Serono) was approved more than a decade ago to fight certain types of cancer. In 2000, the FDA approved the use of Novantrone to treat people with relapsing-remitting MS that is worsening as well as for people with progressive-relapsing or secondary progressive MS. The recommended treatment schedule for use in MS is far less frequent than it is for cancer treatment, and thus the side effects are more manageable. Keep in mind that Novantrone is not intended for use as a treatment for people with primary progressive MS.
In clinical trials, Novantrone showed a reduction in the relapse rate of people with MS, as well as a reduction in the number of lesions on MRI scans and a slowing of disability progression. Novantrone is believed to work by inhibiting the immune cells that attack the CNS. It is usually administered intravenously once every three months.
Because Novantrone can damage your heart, patients are carefully monitored. Before treatment begins, your heart will be checked by your doctor using an echocardiogram or similar study. Doses of the drug are limited to eight to twelve over a two-to three-year period, and cardiac testing is recommended before each dose.
When using Novantrone, your doctor will also take blood samples to check your blood counts and liver function. If you are a woman of childbearing age, your doctor will also give you a pregnancy test before treatment begins each time. While this protocol might seem a bit overwhelming, your doctor wants to be sure that Novantrone is the best drug for you and that your heart and liver are in good working order from the get-go.
What is LDN?
LDN stands for low dose naltrexone, an FDA-approved drug used for treating addiction. Over the last decade anecdotal reports have stated that LDN is effective in providing symptom relief in some people with MS. Currently, the University of California–San Francisco MS Center is conducting a study on LDN, which patient advocates helped to fund.
Other side effects of Novantrone include an increased risk for secondary acute myelogenous leukemia (rare), nausea, hair loss, and changes in the menstrual cycle.
In addition to Novantrone, other immunosuppressive drugs include methotrexate, Cytoxan (cyclophosphamide), Imuran (azathioprine) and Leustatin (cladribine). The FDA has not approved these drugs specifically for MS, but they are used sometimes in patients who do not respond to the first-line-treatment drugs for MS.