Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease that often appears in younger patients— those in their 30s. So the diagnosis can be a shock. Patients find themselves facing challenges they never thought they’d have to face—like managing multiple medications.
“Since they’re young, they tend to not have needed to take medications at all before diagnosis,” explains Ryan Fuller, PharmD, a clinical pharmacist at Penn Medicine’s MS Center. “This may be the first time they have to stick to a medication regimen.” But even though this can be challenging, it’s a critical part of MS treatment.
Medication management tips
Here are 4 MS medication management tips that can help take control of your disease.
Learn how to take your MS medication properly
Taking care of yourself when you have MS means knowing how and when to take your medication…or “staying compliant,” in pharmaceutical terms.
What if it means injections? No problem. “In the MS Center, we train patients on how to do this,” Ryan says. “It’s something that most people adapt to pretty well.”
Many MS medication manufacturers have mobile apps that let patients stay on top of their injections. These apps can be very helpful. But if they’re not right for you, Ryan recommends keeping a handwritten medication diary.
Understand that it takes time for the benefits to become noticeable
“You’re going to be taking medications that may not make you feel better right away,” explains Ryan. “Sometimes the effects of the medication may only be seen on MRI.”
Ryan acknowledges that this can be difficult to accept. MS treatment is about the long-term payoff. According to Ryan, this payoff might not come for 5 or 10 years. But the reward—no MS relapses—is worth it.
Keep in contact with your medical team
Ryan says his goal, as part of the medical team, is to help patients feel comfortable with their MS medication management. “We can talk about reservations you might have about being on these medications so you can feel more comfortable taking them regularly,” he says.
The medical team can also counsel you on how to manage medication side effects.
The ultimate goal is to find the ideal treatment course for each patient. “Patients might not tolerate the first medications they try. Or they might not respond as well to them clinically,” says Ryan.
“Oftentimes we have to try a couple of medications before we get to the one that’s ideal for you. So it’s important to contact us regularly—and follow up with labs and MRIs—so that we can tailor the MS treatment to your needs.”
Don’t be afraid to ask for financial assistance
MS medication can be expensive. Sometimes there are issues with insurance approval, as well. But, Ryan explains, the Penn MS Center has resources available to remove or reduce these obstacles.
“We have a team here that tries to streamline the process for patients so that getting insurance approval can be done in a matter of days,” he says. “We also try to minimize the financial impact on patients with assistance from nonprofits, drug companies, etc.”
Because MS medication management can be such a challenge on its own, Penn Medicine’s goal is to take away these barriers and help MS patients focus on the most important part of all: their health.
Penn Medicine’s MS Center provides comprehensive care for all aspects of multiple sclerosis treatment—including medication management. For more information, request an appointment online or call 215-662-3606.