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Potential Side Effects of Multiple Sclerosis Meds

March 21, 2016

When managing MS, health care providers are tasked with balancing the risks and benefits of every type of MS drug for each patient. Most of these medications require regular blood tests to track how the drug is affecting the patient’s body, particularly the liver.

Managing potential side effects of MS drugs is another important component as it can help promote patient adherence to therapy. Pharmacists can support this effort by educating new patients on what they can expect. Here are a few of the most common side effects they will see:

Flu-Like Symptoms- This symptom is common for patients who self-administer injections. Muscle and joint pain, chills and even a fever are common. These symptoms oftentimes go away in less than 24 hours, but patients should stay hydrated and eat a healthy diet to combat this.

Change in Heart Rate- Gilenya has been shown to slow heart rate, so health care providers will usually administer the first dose in a clinical setting where the patient can be monitored. If patients are taking antiarrhythmic agents or have a history of congestive heart failure, ischemic cardiac disease, or any other heart condition, they may need an electrocardiogram prior to starting therapy.

Chest Pain- Patients have often reported chest pain. The exact mechanism behind this reaction is not entirely understood, but pharmacists and prescribers should make sure that the patient isn’t frightened enough by the pain to discontinue the drug.

Chemo-Like Side Effects- Mitoxantrone is a chemotherapeutic agent that is used to treat MS and given to MS patients intravenously at 3-month intervals. Side effects associated with this treatment are similar to those observed with many of the other chemotherapeutic agents, such as hair loss, bladder infection, and nausea.