Switching Multiple Sclerosis Drugs for Better Results

  • Last week, the FDA held a 2-day hearing on the subject of Social Media, the Internet, and Pharmaceutical Advertising (please read post and comment Wink ).  I attended an event which HealthCentral hosted Thursday evening and afterwards had dinner with a small group of folks.


    At one point during the conversation, Jeremy Shane asked, "but with MS, once you are on a particular medication, you tend to stay on that medication for life.  There is not much switching around between medications, right?"  (question slightly paraphrased because I didn't write it down at the time)


    I answered, NO.  While some patients may find an effective medication for which they can tolerate the side-effects and stay on it longterm, many patients have tried more than one disease-modifying medication.  The subject of switching meds is very common in MS circles.

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    Look at the advertising for the MS meds.  There is a compare-and-contrast approach which is aimed at enticing patients to switch from one med to another, or to choose one med over another in the first place for reasons surrounding convenience, needle size, possible side-effects, frequency of use, and finally efficacy.


    I feel as though I'm in a very strange place talking about this because as of Friday, I will have been off of Copaxone for five weeks.  It is the only MS drug which I have tried since diagnosis and I fought very hard to obtain it since my insurance doesn't pay for it.  But my doctors and I have decided to try Rituxan which is approved for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, but not multiple sclerosis.  However studies have shown it to be "promising" in the treatment of relapsing-remitting MS.


    So this Thursday, I will be sitting in the hospital all day long receiving an infusion of Rituxan.  It can cause some serious adverse events (which were seen mostly in non-Hodgkins Lymphoma patients) so the nurses will be watching me like a hawk during the 6-hour infusion.  Please wish me luck, I'm excited and nervous at the same time.


    My questions to you today:

    • Have you ever switched from one MS disease-modifying medication to another? 
    • What were the reasons behind your switch and how did you decide what to switch to?
    • Or have you chosen to go without disease-modifying drugs, and why? 
    • Do advertisings help you in any way when making these choices?


    Lisa Emrich is author of the blog Brass and Ivory: Life with MS and RA and founder of the Carnival of MS Bloggers.

Published On: November 16, 2009