Glatiramer for Multiple Sclerosis
How It Works
Glatiramer is an artificial protein that resembles a natural myelin protein. It is not known exactly how the medicine works. But it may help people who have multiple sclerosis (MS) by preventing the body's immune system from attacking the myelin coating that protects nerve fibers.
Glatiramer is given as an injection beneath the skin one time a day.
Why It Is Used
Glatiramer is used to treat people with MS who have relapses followed by periods of recovery (relapsing-remitting MS). Findings from clinical trials show that people treated soon after being diagnosed with MS may have better results than those who delay treatment.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society recommends that people who have a definite diagnosis of MS and active, relapsing disease start treatment with interferon beta or glatiramer. This groups adds that treatment with medicine may also be considered after the first attack in some people who are at a high risk for MS.1
Some people have only one episode of a neurological symptom such as optic neuritis. Yet MRI tests suggest these people have MS. This is known as a clinically isolated syndrome. Many of these people go on to develop MS over time. In some cases, doctors will prescribe medicine (either interferon beta or glatiramer) for people who have had a clinically isolated syndrome. These medicines, when taken early or even before you have been diagnosed with MS, may keep the disease from getting worse or may extend your time without disease.2
How Well It Works
All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.
Here are some important things to think about:
Call your doctor if you have:
Common side effects of this medicine include:
See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)
What To Think About
Follow your doctor's instructions on how to use this medicine. Do not give yourself an injection in the same place as your previous injection. Always change the site of the next injection.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society recommends that people with a definite diagnosis of MS and active, relapsing disease start treatment with interferon or glatiramer. The group adds that medicine may also be considered after the first attack in some people at high risk for MS but before it is diagnosed.1
In addition to side effects, there are some drawbacks to treatment with glatiramer:
If you are taking glatiramer, do not stop taking it without first talking with your doctor.
Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.
There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.
Advice for women
If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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