Disease modifying therapies

Disease modifying therapies (DMTs) are not a cure for MS, but they can reduce how many relapses someone has and how serious they are.

They can also slow down the damage caused by relapsing MS that builds up over time.

We've listed below the DMTs available now. Click on each one to find out more and download a factsheet. These factsheets look in detail at how well each drug works, the possible side effects and whether it can be taken if you're pregnant.

We also have a new booklet that covers early treatment and DMTs but in less detail than the factsheets. The booklet also covers two DMTs that it's hoped will be available in 2017 or 2018, including the first drug that can work for some people with progressive MS.

Below are all the DMTs currently available. To read about what other projects MS researchers are working on, visit our treatments in the pipeline section.

>> Download our new booklet on disease modifying therapies

 

Alemtuzumab (Lemtrada)

You can take alemtuzumab (its brand name is Lemtrada) if:

  • you've got relapsing MS and you've had a relapse in the past year and MRI scans show new signs (lesions) that your MS is active despite taking another DMT
  • alemtuzumab can be used more widely as a person's first DMT. But this is only if they've had a recent relapse and/or if MRI scans show new signs that their MS is active (they have new lesions). In these cases it can be used whether people have tried another DMT or not.

Most people have two courses of treatment spaced a year apart from each other. It's given through a drip (known as an infusion) in hospital. For the first course you go to hospital five days in a row. Each day you have an infusion that takes about four hours. You might go home every day two hours after your infusion or you may stay in hospital for the length of the treatment.

You have the second course a year later, over three days in a row, again for about four hours each day. For some people a third (or even fourth) course is needed. Again, this will be over three days in a row, for about four hours each day.

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Avonex (interferon beta-1b)

You can take Avonex (a brand name for one of the beta interferon drugs) if:

  • you’ve got relapsing MS and you've had a recent relapse and/or if MRI scans show new signs that your MS is active (you have new lesions)
  • you have secondary progressive MS and still have significant relapses

It’s injected into the muscle once a week.

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Betaferon (interferon beta-1b)

You can take Betaferon (a brand name for one of the beta interferon drugs) if:

  • you’ve got relapsing MS and you've had a recent relapse and/or if MRI scans show new signs that your MS is active (you have new lesions)
  • you have secondary progressive MS and still have significant relapses

It’s injected under the skin every other day.

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Dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera)

You can take dimethyl fumarate (its brand name is Tecfidera) if you've got relapsing MS and you've had a recent relapse and/or if MRI scans show new signs that your MS is active (you have new lesions).

It’s a tablet you take twice a day.

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Extavia (beta interferon-1b)

You can take Extavia (a brand name for one of the beta interferon drugs) if:

  • you’ve got relapsing MS and you've had a recent relapse and/or if MRI scans show new signs that your MS is active (you have new lesions)
  • you have secondary progressive MS and still have significant relapses

It's injected under the skin every other day.

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Fingolimod (Gilenya)

You can take fingolimod (its brand name is Gilenya) if you have relapsing MS. Who can have it is a little different depending on where in the UK you live. 

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland:

  • people who have the same or an increased number of relapses despite treatment with beta interferons (Avonex, Rebif, Betaferon, Extavia or Plegridy) or glatiramer acetate (Copaxone)

In Scotland:

  • people with highly active relapsing remiting MS who have failed to respond to a DMT
  • people who have had two or more disabling relapses in one year and an increase in lesions as shown on an MRI scan

Across the UK:

If you're taking natalizumab (Tysabri) and you're at high risk of the brain infection PML you can be switched to fingolimod. The most recent ABN guidance suggests that fingolimod can also be used as the first drug treatment for people with highly active relapsing MS.

It’s a tablet you take once a day.

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Glatiramer acetate (Copaxone)

You can take glatiramer acetate (its brand name is Copaxone) if:

  • you’ve got relapsing MS and you've had a recent relapse and/or if MRI scans show new signs that your MS is active (you have new lesions)

It's injected under the skin using a pre-filled syringe once a day or three times a week.

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Natalizumab (Tysabri)

You can take natalizumab (its brand name is Tysabri) if:

  • you've got relapsing MS and you've had a relapse in the past year and if MRI scans show new signs (lesions) that your MS is active despite taking another DMT
  • you've got relapsing MS and (whether or not you've taken another DMT) you've had at least two relapses in the last year and MRI scans show new signs that your MS is active (you have new lesions)

Natalizumab is given through a drip (known as an infusion), which takes about an hour, with another hour to be monitored. You need to go to hospital once every four weeks for the infusion, but you don't need to stay overnight.

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Plegridy (peginterferon beta 1a).

You can take Plegridy (a brand name for one of the beta interferon drugs) if:

  • you’ve got relapsing MS and you've had a recent relapse and/or if MRI scans show new signs that your MS is active (you have new lesions)
  • you have secondary progressive MS and still have significant relapses

It's injected under the skin every two weeks.

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Rebif (beta interferon-1a)

You can take Rebif (a brand name for one of the beta interferon drugs) if:

  • you’ve got relapsing MS and you've had a recent relapse and/or if MRI scans show new signs that your MS is active (you have new lesions)
  • you have secondary progressive MS and still have significant relapses

It's injected under the skin three times a week.

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Teriflunomide (Aubagio)

You can take teriflunomide (its brand name is Aubagio) if you’ve got relapsing MS and you've had a recent relapse and/or if MRI scans show new signs that your MS is active (you have new lesions).

It’s a tablet that you take once a day.

>> Download a copy of our disease modifying therapy guide

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