Disease modifying therapies (DMTs) are medications which have been shown in clinical trials to decrease the frequency and severity of attacks or relapses, and ultimately slow the progression of disability in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.

At present, there are only DMTs available for the relapsing-remitting form of MS. DMTs do not appear to modify the progressive forms of MS where inflammation is less common and people are not having relapses. There is also very little research evidence as to the safety of using DMTs during pregnancy and breast feeding. For this reason, treatment is generally suspended during this time.

It is important to discuss your treatment options, and questions, thoroughly with your neurologist. The MSSANT Nursing Team has extensive knowledge and experience and can provide you with up-to-date information about all of the products. The team has extensive experience with training, and side effect management strategies, for all of the DMTs currently available. There are now eleven types of DMTs registered, and subsidised by the Australian Government for the treatment of RRMS*, these are:

Beta interferons

Beta interferons have been shown to slow down activity and disease progression in MS. They do this by helping regulate the immune system, reducing attacks on myelin or nerves. The following medications are PBS listed:

  • Avonex® (beta interferon 1a) given by intramuscular injection weekly
  • Rebif® (beta interferon 1a) given by injection into the skin 3 times per week
  • Betaferon® (beta interferon 1b) given by injection into the skin on alternate days.
  • Plegridy® (peginterferon beta - 1a) given once a fortnight by injection into the skin.

Copaxone® (glatiramer acetate)

Copaxone® 20mg.mL is given by daily injection into the skin. Note: The 20mg/mL dose will not be available after 1 July 2019.

The 40mg/mL dose of glatiramer acetate (Copaxone 40mg/mL) is a double-dose of the existing form and injections are given three times per week, instead of daily.

Tysabri® (natalizumab)

Tysabri® is a monoclonal antibody which is given by intravenous infusion every 4 weeks. It is thought to work by binding to the white blood cells and preventing them from moving across the blood brain barrier into the brain and spinal cord.

Studies have shown that Tysabri® reduces the occurrence of relapse by around two thirds, and significantly reduces the rate of disease progression. However, there have been reported cases of severe side effects. It is a PBS listed medication.

Gilenya® (fingolimod)

This treatment is a daily oral capsule, which is covered by the PBS. Gilenya® has been shown in clinical trials to reduce the frequency of relapses and delay the progression of physical disability.

Aubagio® (Teriflunomide)

Aubagio® is a once daily oral tablet that has been shown to reduce the frequency of relapses and delay progression of physical disability in patients with RRMS. It is thought to exert its effect on MS by reducing the number of white blood cells reaching the central nervous system.

Tecfidera® (dimethyl fumarate)

Tecfidera® is an oral treatment approved fro RRMS; it has been shown to have both anti-inflammatory and neuro-protective properties.

Lemtrada® (alemtuzumab)

Lemtrada® is an aggressive form of treatment used for more active RRMS. It is given by intravenous infusion in two treatment courses one year apart. Some people may require a third dosing. Regular monitoring for potentially serious side effects must continue for four years after the last infusion.

*Not all medications are suitable to all people with the condition. We strongly recommend you consult your neurologist.

Source: MS Australia Medication Fact Sheets