10 Questions to Ask Before Taking a Disease-Modifying Drug

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Can I commit to taking the medication as recommended?

Taking a disease-modifying drug requires taking the drug exactly as directed, including dosages and timing.  Other factors may include taking the drug with food, injection location or any other specific instructions for your doctor.

Can I deal with the possible side effects?

Few drugs can be taken without concern for side effects.  Nausea, insomnia, rapid heart beat, muscle ache, fevers, chills or injection site side effects are all potential complications from taking a disease-modifying drug.

Can I live with the possible risks of not taking the medication?

The purpose of taking a disease-modifying drug is to slow the progression of multiple sclerosis.  If you choose not to go that route, are you comfortable with the rate of progression of the disease?

Can I accept the medical risks associated with taking any one of these medications?

Few drugs come without risk.  As noted previously, side effects exist for every disease modifying drug.  A patient must also consider the medical risks of taking these drugs, such as the immuno-suppressant side effects, which could lead to illness or disease with more frequency and greater intensity.

How effective are these drugs? Does one drug work better than another?

Since the introduction of the first disease-modifying drug nearly 20 years ago, the industry has grown by leaps and bounds.  Is one of the "ABC" drugs more effective than another?  Will one drug work better for you than another?  Are the side effects of one more managable with relation to the effectiveness of the drug?  Be sure to talk extensively with your doctor before making any decisions.

How will my decision affect my quality of life in the short and long term?

Will I be able to play with my kids, or will the side effect of fatigue limit by ability to enjoy my family?  Will I be able to continue to work?  There are countless factors that figure into quality of life considerations, both short and long term.  List them out to start the thought process.

Will I be able to afford any of these medications?

Having a chronic disease is certainly not cheap.  Will an insurance company cover your MS?  Will it cover one particular drug, but not another?  If paying out of pocket, are you will to accept the financial burden?

How difficult will it be to change my decision?

If I decide to take a disease-modifying drug, can I change drugs?  Can I stop taking a disease-modifier completely?  Or, on the other hand, if I did not choose to take a disease-modifying drug immediately after diagnosis, can I start taking one down the road?

What does the research show as the pros and cons of disease-modifying drugs?

New research comes out with frequency; the field is actively changing.  Be sure to educate yourself on the medical developments in the field and discuss with your doctor.

What does my gut say?

When you bring together all of the aforementioned considerations, is this the right decision for you?  This may be a collaborative approach among you, your doctor, your family, etc.  However, this is ultimately in your hands, as the patient.  Is it going to be beneficial to take a disease-modifying drug?