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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

Alternative Treatments For Patients With Multiple Sclerosis

When it comes to finding treatments for Multiple Sclerosis patients, it can be challenging to find the right one for preventing relapses, depending on the severity of the diagnosis. Favorite drug brands that are FDA approved may not be readily available for Multiple Sclerosis patients due to the high cost of medical insurance plans. Not to mention, individuals may experience side effects from the medications that can hinder their mobility. As such, Multiple Sclerosis patients look for alternative treatments to mitigate the pain, while allowing the individual to have an active lifestyle.

For patients who discovered the diagnosis upon evaluation from their doctor, Multiple Sclerosis is a disease that affects the central nervous system. The myelin sheath is considered to be a protective coating around the nerve that helps with the signal transmissions via the nervous system. With Multiple Sclerosis, the immune system attacks the myelin sheath, resulting in the lack of connection indicators between the brain and the rest of the body.  For patients that have a severe diagnosis, individuals may lose the ability to walk and therefore, will need to rely on wheelchairs or crutches. Additionally, Multiple Sclerosis patients may experience fatigue, the potential loss of vision, slurred speech and weakness in the limbs. Regarding the risk factors, there is a significant percentage of women between the ages of 15 and 60 diagnosed with this debilitating disease. At the moment, doctors have not discovered a cure for Multiple Sclerosis. With the availability of treatments, Multiple Sclerosis patients can find relief by treating their symptoms and prevent the disease from degenerating over the course of their lifetime.

Not every Multiple Sclerosis diagnoses are treated the same. It’s important to note that doctors may determine the severity of the disease based on running multiple tests, such as MRI scans to check for neurological brain activity and spinal taps. In most cases, Multiple Sclerosis patients are prescribed interferon beta medications to treat flare-ups that are caused by the damaged myelin sheath. Interferon beta medications are approved by the FDA to help treat relapses while preventing the immune system from attacking the central nervous system. Currently, five drugs are available on the market, which are Avonex, Betaseron, Extavia, Plegridy, and Rebif.

Because of the rising costs of healthcare in America, some insurance plans may not cover the FDA-approved treatments for Multiple Sclerosis patients. As a result, individuals may find themselves paying out of pocket to cover the costs of the Interferon beta medications. According to a May 2013 study via the Journal Of Medical Economics, it is estimated that Multiple Sclerosis patients are expected to pay anywhere between $8,528 to $54,244 per year, which includes prescription costs along with additional medical expenses, such as physical therapy and mobility accessories. On September 12, 2017, the National MS Society conducted a free webinar where they provided a brief discussion on utilizing health coverage while understanding patients medical rights when requesting for treatment. Additionally, the presentation covered topics on out-of-pocket costs, along with seeking an appeal in case a patient is denied for their treatment, medical supplies, and accessories.

While interferon beta medications may provide relief for Multiple Sclerosis patients, many individuals who have used the treatments often experience side effects when taking the medicines. For example, some individuals may report experiencing flu-like symptoms such as headaches, chills, and fever. In most cases, the side effects do not require any medical attention. Even so, Multiple Sclerosis patients will need to monitor the changes of the side effects as they become accustomed to the treatments over time.

It’s important to note that depression and Multiple Sclerosis are linked due to the missing myelin sheath. There are many levels of distress that a person with Multiple Sclerosis can experience. It’s highly encouraged for patients with Multiple Sclerosis to seek counseling to determine the level of severity of their depression. Doctors may provide coping strategies along with antidepressants to help patients manage their depression symptoms, under the assumption that it does not interfere with their Multiple Sclerosis treatments.

Given the side effects listed, Multiple Sclerosis patients look for alternative methods whether if they choose to continue with their treatments or not.  In a Norwegian case study conducted in March 2012, there were 72 patients diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis who responded positively to alternative therapies, such as acupuncture and spiritual healing. Controversial alternatives, such as stem cell therapy and medical marijuana have caught the public attention in hopes of providing relief while mitigating the high priced costs from traditional treatments. Some patients often adopt a healthier lifestyle, whether if it’s a gluten-free or Paleo diet along with a light exercise regimen such as yoga to help maintain movability on the joints. As such, doctors urge patients to exercise with caution when participating in alternative treatments since they are not FDA approved.

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