Written by Adrienne Santos-Longhurst | Published on April 2, 2015
Medically Reviewed by George T. Krucik, MD, MBA on April 2, 2015
Here’s what to talk about with your doctor before switching MS treatments.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most common disabling neurological disease for young adults. Even so, treating MS isn’t easy. MS is a complex and individual disease that affects each person differently. From progression to response to treatment, no two people have the same results. It’s important to work closely with your doctor to find the best treatment for you.
MS can cause many symptoms that vary in frequency and severity, even when your treatment is effectively preventing progression or new lesions. This is because symptom management and disease management are two different things. Just because you might not be feeling well doesn’t mean that your treatment is no longer working, and vice versa.
Speak to your doctor about your symptoms and the options available for managing them. Research has found that managing individual symptoms is important for retaining a better quality of life. Along with disease-modifying therapies (DMTs), your doctor can also prescribe medications or other therapies to help manage your symptoms, such as pain, spasticity, or bladder issues. Getting your symptoms under control will allow you to continue with effective disease management treatment.
Your doctor will likely understand that one of your biggest considerations when choosing an MS treatment is how it will affect your lifestyle. It’s understandable to want a treatment that will allow you to feel your best and allow you to live your life as normal as possible.
MS treatments need to be taken on a long-term basis to be successful, so ask your doctor the following questions when considering your options:
•How often will I need to take this medication?
•How easy is it to administer?
•What are the side effects I can most likely expect?
•What impact will other medications have on my lifestyle?
•Is there any special monitoring or tests that I’ll need?
•What are the risks of taking other medications with this treatment?
All medications carry some sort of risk or complication. You should factor these risks into your decision. Your doctor can help you weigh the risks with the benefits, but you’ll ultimately be responsible for making the final decision.
Your Reasons for Wanting to Switch Medications
The treatment you’re on was chosen for a reason. Before switching medications, your doctor will want to know your reasons for wanting to make the change.
You’ll want to discuss how your current treatment is making you feel both physically and emotionally, including:
•troubling side effects
•concerns that treatment is no longer working
•concerns about the cost of treatment
•difficulties taking/injecting your medication
•issues with dosing or remembering to take your medication
Rather than switching treatments, your doctor may be able to offer other solutions to make your current treatment work for you, such as:
•modifying your dose
•prescribing a more affordable generic version
•giving you a planned break from your treatment
Also, before you think about switching treatments make sure that you’ve been taking your current medication properly. Not taking medication as prescribed is one of the most common causes of poor response to treatment.
Any new changes to your diet or other medications that you’re taking may also affect the way your MS treatment works. Be sure to tell your doctor if you’re doing anything differently or taking new medications for other conditions.