I'm a huge supporter of taking medications to help slow down the progression of MS. I also follow the guideline set forth by the National MS Society which to paraphrase is, to find an MS medication that works for you and stay on it. My MS medication of choice is Copaxone. I'm not posting this to say EVERYONE GO ON COPAXONE RIGHT NOW; I just want to share what I take with everyone.
I've been taking Copaxone since my diagnosis in September of 2009 and I have never thought about switching. At the time of my diagnosis the only medications available were injectable medications, now they do have pills, but that wasn't part of my decision making process at the time.
I had to choose between five different medications:
Avonex - 1 time a week injection
Beteseron - Every Other Day injection
Rebif - Three times a week injection
Copaxone - Daily injection (Yes, I give myself an injection every day)
Tysabri - Once a Month IV
Tysabri was nixed by my doctor from the start. The way the drug works is to lower you immune system and by default has a lot of side effects of it's one. One of the most serious is PML which is a brain infection. He said that I should try the injections first and if that they didn't work then we'd revisit Tysabri. Works for me!
Avonex, Beteseron, and Rebif are Interferon's and while the injections were less than Copaxone they all have side effects that can include flu like symptoms. As well, I would have to get my liver checked every three months. Avonex also has a REALLY BIG NEEDLE. All of the other injections are subq, which is an injection that does not have to go into the muscle. Avonex is IM which means it's into the muscle and A HUGE NEEDLE.
Did I mention HUGE?
The blood tests and the flu like symptoms were not on my list of things I wanted to do. That left Copaxone. Copaxone is an amino acid, a subq injection with no blood tests, and no flu like symptoms. Now, injecting myself every day was also something I didn't want to do, but I also felt that I had to do something for my MS.
I've had some side effects, mostly injection site stuff like itching and stinging. The stinging is like a bad bee sting and it goes away pretty fast. It is a little painful but nothing I can't deal with. Once I've had the IPIR reaction. This is where you feel like you're having a crazy panic attack for about 10 minutes (heart attack panic attack same thing - smile). I knew what it was though so I didn't get too scared.
When I was diagnosed with Cancer in June I was really worried about my taking my Copaxone shots. Call it focusing on something I had control over but I REALLY wanted my Copaxone. My oncologist's, hematologist's, and slew of other doctors had to research Copaxone and any interactions it may have with my chemo or with my immune system. However, within two days of being hospitalized I was able to begin my Copaxone again.
I was told that if I had been on any of the other injectable medications for MS they would have discontinued my MS treatment. This to me was a huge plus on the side of Copaxone. I was going to be poisoned by chemotherapy but my Copaxone was safe enough to allow me to continue to take it. I was ecstatic.
Even with all the stress of a cancer diagnosis, hospitalization, and 8 months of chemotherapy, I have not had a MS flare. Is that because of Copaxone? I can't say, but I can say that I'm sure it didn't hurt.
Just as a side note: As of January this year (2014) Copaxone is being offered as a 3x a week injection. Woo hoo less shots!