(BPT) – For people with multiple sclerosis (MS), many of the treatment options surrounding their condition are well known. However, in the past, many people with MS decided to delay using MS drugs for as long as possible and allow the disease to run its course. New guidelines from the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) — the world’s largest association of neurologists — show that early treatment, even before a second relapse, may be the best plan in dealing with one’s MS care.
According to a new guideline, published April 24, 2018 in Neurology(R), the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, new findings by the AAN show it may be better for people to start taking drugs for their MS early on in order to modify the disease.
These findings were presented in April at the 2018 AAN Annual Meeting in Los Angeles.
“The treatment landscape for people with MS has changed drastically over the last two decades,” said lead author Dr. Alexander D. Rae-Grant of Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology. “We now have many disease-modifying therapies to choose from that may help treat MS by changing how the disease affects people over time by slowing the disease process.”
For people with MS, the new guidelines represent a shift in care from older guidelines, and while the new guidelines offer a comprehensive review of this new strategy, here are some things people with MS need to know immediately.
Discussing your options with your clinician is more important than ever
While the new guidelines advise introducing medicines at an earlier period in the treatment regimen for many people with MS, the importance of discussing one’s individual options with a clinician has not changed. Medicines still carry risks, and the best treatment solution can vary by person. For these reasons, people with MS owe it to themselves to discuss their disease-modifying therapy (DMT) options with their neurologist to determine which solution is right for them and chart a course for future care.
In many cases this care could involve a two-pronged approach, with some medicines being used to treat MS symptoms, including muscle tightness, spasticity, fatigue, pain, memory problems, and depression or anxiety. Meanwhile other medicines — used as part of the DMT — will target the disease itself, to modify it and slow the process.
Playing the long game
Success in this medicinal regimen depends on the person’s ongoing commitment to managing the condition.
Once the initial treatment plan is set in motion, people with MS should monitor their condition carefully and report to their neurologist any side effects they are experiencing that could be associated with their treatment. It is also vital for these people to have their disease activity checked regularly through MRI scans. The results of these scans will allow people with MS and their neurologist to make decisions about their treatment and make strategy and/or medicinal adjustments, as needed, in response to the data.
Finally, people with MS should be aware that insurance plans may differ in coverage options for DMTs and other treatment-related medicines. In discussing DMT and medicinal options with their neurologist, people should be sure to check that the proposed regimen will be covered under their insurance plan. It is their obligation to ensure their insurance company is supporting them in their MS treatment with as much commitment as their medical team.
To learn more about the new MS guideline and what it means for the future of MS treatment and care, visit AAN.com/policy-and-guidelines/guidelines.