Patient considerations in the management of multiple sclerosis: development and clinical utility of oral agents
Nathalie Girouard, Nanda Soucy
MS Clinic, Ottawa Hospital, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Abstract: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is one of the most frequently occurring disabling neurological disorders among young adults in Canada. It is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the central nervous system (CNS) that is thought to be immune mediated in nature. An estimated 55,000–75,000 Canadians suffer from this debilitating disease. Starting in the mid-1990s, we witnessed the beginning of a new era in the treatment of MS. Treatments finally became available to help modify the course of the disease. Early initiation of treatment soon after diagnosis has become the expectation in many MS clinics, warranting many decisions to be made by the patient with the assistance of their health care team. Currently, there are two categories of disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) available: immunomodulatory and immunosuppressant agents. Although disease-modifying therapies are not a cure and are only moderately effective, they offer a possible slowing of any progression that may occur over time, a decrease in relapse activity, and a decrease in the amount of new lesions developing in the CNS found on magnetic resonance imaging. Not only have these agents been partly effective but up to now they have only been available parenterally, which has many limitations, including a major factor in determining the best outcome for the treatment: adherence. Four new DMTs will likely become available to Canadians over the next five years. Fingolimod, cladribine, teriflunomide, and laquinimod are likely to be marketed as the first oral DMTs in Canada. The US Food and Drug Administration approved fingolimod in September 2010 as a first-line therapy for relapsing forms of MS. Dalfampridine is also available in the US as an agent able to improve walking. Even if these agents present with higher efficacy and a promising safety and tolerability profile, thus possibly demonstrating better adherence, it will be imperative for the health care professionals to focus on monitoring and supporting the patient to ensure reliable reporting of side effects and to improve overall adherence. In the near future, more treatments will become available to the MS population, and choices will become even more complex so that ongoing support, open communication, and education are required to tame any uncertainties about decisions made regarding treatments.
Keywords: adherence, multiple sclerosis, treatment, decisions
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