8 Multiple Sclerosis Treatments and Their Side Effects
Sep 24, 2012 (updated Apr 22, 2014)
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High doses of intravenous corticosteroids, such as methylprednisone, have been the first-line treatment for the prevention of disability from acute MS attacks. Osteoporosis and reversible short-term memory loss have been linked to the use of the drugs. Some research suggests that oral corticosteroids may be as effective as the IV formula of these drugs, though gastrointestinal and psychiatric disorders appear to be more common with these oral drugs.
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Lioresal (baclofen) is one of the drugs used to treat symptoms of muscle spasms or stiffness that come with MS. Because Lioresal works by depressing nerve function, it can also reduce brain function and cause muscle weakness. It has also been associated with increased blood sugar, so medications for diabetes often much be adjusted when taken with Lioresal.
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Like Lioresal, Neurontin (gabapentin) can be used to relax muscle stiffness and spasms in MS patients, but it used to control pain, as well. Neurontin can cause dizziness, drowsiness, an increased risk of infections, shakiness, weight gain, and blurred vision.
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Tysabri (natalizumab) is an IV med used to treat relapsing/remitting MS, prescribed to help reduce acute MS attacks and decrease or delay disability. Side effects of Tysabri include headache, joint pain, changes in menstrual cycle in women, and swelling. Tysabri has also been linked to a rare but potentially fatal brain infection called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML).
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Like Tysabri, Copaxone (glatiramer SubQ) is used to treat relapsing/remitting MS, though it is injected under the skin rather than in the vein. Nausea, chills, itching or rapid heartbeat after injection, neck ache, joint aches, and headaches have been associated with taking this drug.
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Novantrone (mitoxantrone IV) is another IV medication used to treat MS, though it is also used to treat leukemia and other cancers. Side effects of this medication include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, and unusual fatigue. Novantrone has also been linked to serious heart problems, including heart failure, but this side effect is rare and rarely fatal.
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Betaseron (interferon beta-1b) is another of the approved disease-modifying drugs approved to treat MS since 2008, and this IV drug also works to reduce acute attacks of MS and delay or decrease disability. Flu-like symptoms such as fevers, chills, or muscle aches have been found in people given Betaseron, as have skin reactions at the injection site, weakness, headaches, insomnia, and muscle pain.
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Depression is a common condition in people with MS, and there are a variety of antidepressants used to treat it. Some drugs used to treat depression in MS patients include Elavil (amitriptyline), Prozac (fluoxetine), and Zoloft (sertraline). Side effects such as dry mouth, weight gain, and sexual problems have been reported with the use of antidepressants.