In order to work properly, multiple sclerosis (MS) medications need to reach your bloodstream. Most of the disease-modifying medications for MS, which help to slow the progression of the disease, cannot be given by mouth because the body will break them down before they can get into the bloodstream.
To avoid this problem, most disease-modifying medications are given by injection (note that there are disease-modifying medications that are taken by mouth; examples are Gilenya® (fingolimod), Tecfidera™ (dimethyl fumarate) and Fampyra™ (fampridine). There are different types of injections that are used to give MS medications: subcutaneous (SC), intramuscular (IM), and intravenous (IV) injections.
SC injections are given under the skin. The medication moves through the tissue to enter the bloodstream. With appropriate training, people can learn to give themselves this type of injection at home. Disease-modifying MS medications given by SC injection include:
- Rebif® (interferon beta-1a)
- Betaseron® (interferon beta-1b)
- Extavia® (interferon beta-1b)
- Copaxone® (glatiramer)
IM injections are given into a muscle. The medication enters the bloodstream through the blood supply to the muscle. After proper training, people can learn to give themselves an IM injection at home. Disease-modifying MS medications given by IM injection include:
- Avonex® (interferon beta-1a)
IV infusions are slow injections or "drips" given directly into a vein. With an IV infusion, the medication enters directly into the bloodstream. IV infusions are given in a hospital or clinic by a healthcare professional such as a nurse or a doctor. Disease-modifying MS medications given by IV infusion include:
- Tysabri® (natalizumab)
If your doctor has prescribed an MS medication that is taken by injection, make sure you understand what type of injection will be used, how and where it will be given, and what side effects to watch for. If the idea of injections makes you uneasy, see "Overcoming self-injection anxiety."
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