Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a vexing disease because there isn’t really a clear cause for the condition, there is no cure, and symptoms can be unpredictable. Some classes of infusion drugs are able to slow the progression of the disease and/or alleviate symptoms.
What is MS
MS is considered an autoimmune disease, which usually describes conditions that suppress the immune system, making it difficult to fight off illness. In the case of MS, the immune system becomes overactive and attacks healthy tissue. MS causes the body to attack the central nervous system, destroying the myelin, or protective coating of nerves between the brain and the spinal cord. This, in turn, impacts the communication between the brain and the rest of the body.
Sclerosis means scarring, and when multiple nerves are scarred to the point of impaired brain-body communication, MS is indicated.
The disease frequently manifests in what are called “flare-ups,” episodes when the communication between the brain, organs, and limbs is disrupted. This can cause patients to struggle with speech, movement, vision, and cognition. In the long term, damage to the nerves in the spine can cause significant impairments of mobility, balance, and coordination.
What are Infusion Drugs
Infusion drugs–drugs that are administered through veins–are sometimes used to treat MS, either to slow its progression or minimize symptoms. Some infusion drugs are called disease modifiers, meaning that they can change the way that MS behaves in the body. The medications for MS aim to suppress the immune system so that it doesn’t attack the nerves.
MS Infusion Drugs
Alemtuzumab inhibits the production of specific white blood cells to reduce inflammation and subsequent nerve damage. Natalizumab prevents the overactive immune system cells from entering the brain and spinal cord. Mitoxantrone is used to treat MS and some cancers. It works by preventing the immune system from reacting to the attacks on the nerves. Mitoxantrone can have many of the same side effects as chemotherapy drugs including mild to severe nausea and hair loss.
Because all of these drugs are very costly and can have dangerous side effects when misused, they are typically administered in a healthcare facility overseen by a clinical professional.
Non Infusion Therapies
Other disease-modifying therapies available include interferon injections, which also act to slow the immune system down to reduce nerve damage; and glatiramer acetate which induces the immune system to produce more anti-inflammation cells. These are administered with daily or weekly injections.
These and other medications can help alleviate some of the symptoms of MS. For many patients, medications are just one part of managing the disease. Physical therapy and occupational therapy can be very helpful in helping patients maintain and improve normal functions for movement, balance, and coordination. Other specialties that are often involved in treating MS patients include psychiatrists and pain management specialists.