The Original "ABC Drugs" For Treatment Of Multiple Sclerosis

Contributed by Jannah Peterson, Diagnosed 2001

ABC treatments was the name given to the earliest FDA approved immunomodulating drugs. An immunomodulating drug is a medicine that changes how the immune system acts. Those with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) have an overactive immune system that begins attacking itself, destroying the myelin sheath around the nerves in the body. It also causes "scleroids" or scar tissue to form in the brain. 

The ABC Drugs are used to treat relapsing forms of MS by reducing the number of exacerbations or flare-ups. An exacerbation is when new symptoms emerge or old symptoms get worse. They can be mild or severe enough to interfere with a person's ability to function. The first of the ABC Drugs were: Avonex - a once weekly injection, Betaseron - injections every other day and Copaxone - an everyday injection. Those were the first FDA approved medications used for the treatment of MS. Now there are more options. There are pill forms of medication and twice a year injections, but no cure for MS. 

There are four kinds of MS: 
1. Relapsing-Remitting: The most common form, 85% of MS sufferers have this with relapses that bring about new symptoms. 
2. Secondary-Progressive: Symptoms steadily get worse over time, with or without any relapses. Most people diagnosed with Relapsing-Remitting MS develop Secondary-Progressive MS. 
3. Primary-Progressive: About 10% of people with MS have a slowly worsening of symptoms with no relapses. 
4. Progressive-Relapsing: Rare form of MS, 5% of people have it with steadily worsening of the disease with relapses and no remission. 

During a flare-up, many different symptoms emerge or become worse. An exacerbation is the worsening of symptoms lasting twenty-four hours or longer. Common symptoms include: numbness and tingling in one or more extremity, weakness, clumsiness in the hands or legs, loss of vision, double vision, eye pain, fatigue, depression, bladder and bowel dysfunction, memory loss, decreased attention span, acute and chronic pain, muscle spasticity, dizziness and vertigo. 

After the flare-up, there is damage done in the body that it might not recover from fully. Steroid infusions such as the use of Solu-Medrol which is a potent steroid, help ease inflammation. It is used for the treatment of an acute attack. Side effects from steroid infusion include: sleep problems, metallic taste in the mouth, upset stomach, mood disturbances, weight gain and water retention, risk of infection increases and possible elevated blood sugar. 

Depending on the type of MS you have, most try multiple medications over the years. Betaseron and Copaxone are still very much used today. Watching the foods you eat, getting enough sleep and minimizing your stress levels also weigh hugely on the overall quality of life. 

So don't give up! Be willing to try new things and learn what you can about your disease. There are new medications and new procedures that help to keep you going. You are not alone.