Immunosuppressants as treatment for multiple sclerosis

Researchers continually search for new or better medicines to treat multiple sclerosis (MS). MS appears to be a disease in which the immune system attacks the covering of the nerves (myelin) within the brain and spinal cord, so treatments that reduce the activity of the immune system may slow the progression of the disease. Medicines that work in this manner are called immunosuppressants. They are a major focus of MS research.

Several immunosuppressants are being studied or used for MS:

  • Alemtuzumab (Campath), which has been shown to reduce disability in relapsing-remitting MS. But the side effects of this medicine include possibly fatal disease.
  • Azathioprine (Imuran), which has shown conflicting results but may reduce the number of relapses in relapsing-remitting MS.
  • Cladribine (Leustatin), which has been used successfully against leukemia. Again, research has shown conflicting results.
  • Cyclophosphamide, which many experts believe stabilizes MS without improving it. But research has shown conflicting results.
  • Daclizumab (Zenapax), which may reduce disease activity in relapsing-remitting MS.
  • Methotrexate, which has also been used to treat cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. This drug may be of limited benefit in reducing the progression of MS.
  • Rituximab (Rituxan), which has been shown to reduce the number of relapses in relapsing-remitting MS.

Any therapy that can be used to treat MS must be judged by how it affects a person's degree of disability. Newer studies rely on the results of MRI scans and the progression of disability to evaluate how well therapy is working.

Last Updated: February 18, 2010

related physicians

related services

Bon Secours International| Sisters of Bon Secours USA| Bon Secours Health System

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Privacy Policy. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2010 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.