Disease-Modifying Drugs: Shot Time at the Digmann House

  • "Bet you wish you didn’t have to take your shot every day," I joke.

    “About as much as I bet you wish your medicine came in a handy pre-mixed syringe,” my wife, Jennifer, replies.

    And so goes the routine that we, as a married couple living with Multiple Sclerosis, endure hoping to lessen the frequency and severity of MS exacerbations we have faced and someday may face again.

    It’s easy to make light of taking our shots now, but it’s a serious reality of MS that took us some time to understand.  It wasn't easy to accept why we needed to take a disease-modifying medication.

    Neither of us found the right medicine on our first try.

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    In fact Jennifer, within the first year of her diagnosis, tried Avonex and Betaseron before finding measurable results with Copaxone.

    “I was having monthly flare-ups,” she says. “Eventually my neurologist reached his conclusion that those interferon drugs weren’t effectively treating my MS.”

    Now 13 years later, Jennifer gladly takes her pre-mixed Copaxone subcutaneous shot every day while I smile on the days when I don’t have to take my Betaseron.

    While this was the first medicine I tried, regular blood tests showed it was elevating my liver enzymes and my neurologist switched me to Avonex. But after my body didn’t respond well to this weekly intramuscular injection, he switched me back to Betaseron.

    Now more than a decade later – with my liver enzymes adjusting to the interferon – I take my non-refrigerated Betaseron subcutaneous shot every other day while Jennifer busts my chops because she doesn’t need to mix her Copaxone.

    We in no way are advocating for or endorsing any of the disease-modifying MS medications. These merely are our experiences, and we know people who have responded well to all of the available medicines. The key is to pursue and discover which one works for you. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s National Clinical Advisory Board, disease-modifying medications are most effective when started early, before the disease has the opportunity to progress further.

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved eight disease-modifying medications for use in relapsing forms of MS, including those with secondary progressive MS still experiencing relapses.

    The thought of taking a regular shot or pill is understandably intimidating. But we encourage people instead to feel empowered knowing that they are doing what they can to affect the course of this unpredictable disease.

Published On: March 29, 2011