Disease-modifying therapies or DMTs are medications that slow down the progress or modify relapsing types of multiple sclerosis (MS). They are given by injection (shot), orally (by mouth) or intravenous infusion (into the vein). Most neurologists and MS experts recommend that anyone with a relapsing form of MS should begin and continue treatment with a DMT.
Starting your treatment early on is important because this active disease can permanently damage areas of your nervous system before you even have symptoms, and DMTs are more useful in earlier phases of MS.
DMTs have many benefits, including lowering the:
- Frequency of flares
- Severity of flare symptoms
- Number of new lesions as seen on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Degree of disability
Your MS is a long-term condition, and your DMT is meant to be a long-term treatment. But staying on track isn’t always easy. Below are some common DMT treatment challenges and tips to manage or overcome them.
People may not want to start the DMT their doctor has prescribed. What are some of the reasons people give?
“I don’t have noticeable symptoms.” When a person has recovered and the symptoms of a flare are gone, they may not see any reason to start treatment. But this doesn’t always mean a person’s MS is under control. Your DMT can help prevent serious damage.
“I’m concerned about the cost.” Your MS CareTeam can help you navigate your plan’s requirements and make paying for your MS treatment easier. This includes filing claims, assisting with manufacturer copay cards, and, if you lose your job or benefits, we can locate potential financial assistance resources to help prevent breaks in your care.
“I’m worried about the side effects.” DMTs do have side effects. And some people— especially people in remission or with mild MS symptoms—may worry that a DMT will make them feel worse, not better. But taking your DMT as your doctor instructed will help you in the long term.
DMTs should only be stopped or changed if your doctor decides the side effects are too severe, it’s not working, or a better option is available, but many people decide to stop for weeks, months or even years. Below are common reasons why some patients stop treatment.
“I really don’t feel better. I’m not sure it’s working.” DMTs are meant to slow the progress of MS and limit damage to your nervous system. You may not feel them working, but your neurologist will be able to see their effect with MRI scans and other tests. Take comfort knowing that your DMT is working in the background to help slow your MS. Always talk to your neurologist and MS CareTeam if you are having new or worsening symptoms.
“My DMT gives me side effects.” It’s important not to miss doses and most minor side effects will lessen with continued use. Over-the-counter medications, rest, and staying hydrated can help ease side effects such as flu-like symptoms, headaches, and fatigue. Talk to your neurologist or MS CareTeam if you need help managing side effects or feel like your side effects are worsening. See our article about other health changes that can help you feel better.
Always talk to your neurologist and MS CareTeam if you are having new or worsening symptoms.
“My DMT isn’t covered by my new insurance.” Call your MS CareTeam if your DMT is no longer covered by your insurance or if you can’t afford your out-of-pocket costs. Your MS CareTeam will work to help locate potential financial assistance resources so you don’t have breaks in care. They will also work with your neurologist to help get you a new, covered option if they can’t find a solution.
Read our article about other helpful ways you can save more and spend less while living with MS.