In case you haven’t noticed, there are some amazing things happening with the disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) for multiple sclerosis! Personally, I’m in awe of the advances that are happening, and it continues to fuel my hope that we are moving closer and closer to a cure for MS.
I was fortunate to have been diagnosed with MS pretty much right after I started presenting with symptoms, and lucky to have been diagnosed at a time when there were four DMTs approved by the FDA for multiple sclerosis. With all that fortune, I was also extremely blessed to start on a DMT shortly after I received an MS diagnosis. I credit that early treatment as part of the reason why I’m doing so well managing life with multiple sclerosis.
I didn’t know much at that time about what that meant to me, and truly to the entire MS community. Not too long before I was diagnosed in 2003, there were no approved DMTs for MS. Think about that! There was a time when people didn’t have any option at all! It is never fast enough when you’re dealing with a chronic illness but we’ve come an awful long way in a relatively short amount of time!
According to the National MS Society, “the first injectable medication was introduced in 1993*” and now there are currently 15 FDA-approved medications for multiple sclerosis. In recent exciting news, one therapy has even been approved for use in more aggressive forms of MS — a first since all of these medications are targeted for use in the relapse-remitting form of the disease. Unfortunately, all of these therapies are considered “disease-modifying” and not necessarily treatments or cures. However, judging on the amazing strides that have occurred over the past decade or so, I can’t help but think we are moving closer to a cure all the time.
The remarkable thing about the current DMTs are all of the various options available. In 2003, my only choice was to take an injectable medication. Now, people diagnosed with MS can select between injectable, oral, and infused therapies. As with anything, it is always nice to have choices! The way I see it, people can now find the right therapy that works best for them — one that they can adhere to and one that their body reacts to in a positive way. If one therapy doesn’t appear to be working, or has overwhelming side effects, there are others that may work better.
Don’t be afraid to work with your healthcare provider and explore the various DMT options until you find the right one. I have seen numerous people say that they wish they had gone on a DMT when they had the chance, who have since progressed with the disease, and now regret not going on a DMT. For me, taking a DMT is that extra assurance that I’m doing all that I can to fight MS and hold it at bay.
The proof is in the pudding!
In addition to the number of options available, there are countless studies that have shown that early and continuous treatment with these disease-modifying agents result in better outcomes for people living with MS. These DMTs are helping to hold off progression and contribute to people living more fulfilling lives with multiple sclerosis. I like to think that MS is not the disease that it used to be, and I believe the advances in DMTs play a big part in that.
There is never an optimal time to be diagnosed with a chronic illness, except of course, a time when there is a cure, but those of us diagnosed with MS couldn’t ask for a better time. Now more than ever, we have a much better chance of holding off the progression of multiple sclerosis and living successfully with the disease.
Sometimes I wonder what the long-term effects these medications are having on my body but then I think of the long-term benefits of what these medications are preventing my body from becoming. I credit these DMTs with how well I’m doing living with multiple sclerosis. I credit them with disproving that old statistic that most people with relapse-remitting MS move on to secondary progressive within 10 years. I’m 14 years in and I’m not looking back!
PLEASE NOTE: I am not endorsing or recommending any one disease modifying therapy over another. I believe that the decision to medicate or not is a very personal choice and everyone has to find their own strategies that work the best for their health, lifestyle, and beliefs.
*National MS Society. (2016). The History of MS [Brochure]. MARSHFI ELD, WI: Author.