Friday, 8 May 2009


DMDs are Disease Modifying Drugs. There is no cure for MS, but there are drugs that you can take to help lessen the effects of relapses and even reduce the frequency of relapses.

These drugs are (in the UK) most commonly Avonex, Betaferon, Rebif and Copaxone. These are self-administered by injection. Neuro's preference is to start taking these as soon as you are eligible. The eligibility requires that you be diagnosed with MS, that you be able to walk independently (meeting certain criteria) and that you have had two clinically significant relapses in the last two years. There is also a newer treatment, Tysabri. This is administered in hospital by infusion. This has different criteria of eligibility and less people are eligible for this treatment.

I resisted DMDs as I have (had?) a terrible fear of needles. Routine blood tests usually involved me passing out and requiring rest and glasses of water before being fit to leave the phlebotomists chair. After several relapses requiring we walking with a stick I decided that it was time to overcome the needle-phobia and do something to try and ameliorate matters.
Winter 2006 I started taking Avonex. This had the advantage of only requiring me to inject myself once a week as the injection was intra-muscular. I took this for about a year until the relapse that landed me in bed. At this point my Neuro suggested switching to Betaferon which is stronger, and injected subcutaneously every other day.

Betaferon was a fairly disastrous experience for me. Not only did I have a another relapse only a few months after starting the course but I found it next to impossible to remember 'every other day'. One lasting (and irritating) symptom of MS for me has been a marked deterioration in my recall. The worst difficulty of Betaferon was the injection site reactions. These went beyond the little pink spots that I had on occasion experienced with Avonex. These involved craters appearing under the skin, and the skin changing colour from white to purple and the eventually a scab usually about an inch in diameter. This would last for several months before finally healing and leaving a very visible scar.

After trying heat, cold, creams and all sorts when no solution was found I was changed back to Avonex.

DMDs are a long term commitment. They don't cure any existing relapses, but they can lessen the severity of future relapses, and even the incidence.

This completes the 'history' of my MS. You now know how I got to be where I am today... taking Avonex once a week and walking with a stick.

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