MAKING MS TREATMENT DECISIONS

Find ways to partner with your healthcare team and learn from a leading neurologist about MS treatment considerations.

Transcript

Channing: Hi, my name’s Channing. I live in Northwest Arkansas with my dog, Benny, and I was diagnosed with MS 14 years ago. And like so many people, before I began treatment, I had a lot of questions. Today I’m speaking with Dr. Timothy West about some of the questions I had when deciding on an appropriate treatment. Hi, Dr. West. Thanks so much for speaking with me.

Dr. West: Hello, Channing.

Channing: So, what are some of the factors that we should be considering when making a treatment decision with our healthcare provider?

Dr. West: Well, as you know, there are quite a few treatment options out there for multiple sclerosis. But it’s also important to remember that the appropriate medication for each individual might be different. There’s a lot of things that go into making this treatment decision. Of course, we look at how aggressive your disease has been, and we of course consider side effects or potential side effects of medications. But we also consider personal goals, personal preferences, and other health conditions that you might be struggling with. In addition, the possible risks of any individual treatment can be assessed in different ways by different people, so some people are comfortable with one risk and others aren’t, and we take that into consideration. Overall, the ultimate goal is to find a medicine that you are going to be able to take. Much like a seatbelt, if you don’t click the seatbelt, it has no ability to help you in a car accident. And medicines are the same way. If you don’t take a medication, it has zero chance of helping you. And even still, these are preventative measures, right? The idea is to try to keep you safe, but they’re not guaranteed to do so.

Treatment can be different for each person.

Decision factors include:

  • Disease severity
  • Possible side effects
  • Treatment goals
  • Personal preferences
  • Health conditions

Medicine may not be able to work if you don’t take it as prescribed.

Channing: Okay, so that makes a lot sense, because after I was diagnosed, I still wanted to fulfill my dream of being a journalist and morning show anchor. But I needed a plan so I could achieve that goal, and that meant finding a treatment that I would stick to and that was effective.

Dr. West: I mean, that’s fantastic. Everyone has their own personal treatment goals, and I think that those are very important. My goal as a physician is to try to help my patients reach their goals. So it is really important to have a working relationship and the ability to discuss with your doctor so that we know where you’re coming from, but also so that we can help you set realistic expectations for what the medications can do.

Channing: Yeah, I agree one hundred percent. And I’m really glad that I have a working relationship with my healthcare provider so we can have that open dialogue. What are some other things that are really important for patients to share with you?

Dr. West: Well, first off, it’s really important for us to understand any other medical condition you are struggling with. It’s also really important for us to understand other medicines you are taking, and even herbal supplements. It’s also really helpful for us to understand really anything that can affect your health—habits like smoking or drinking, where you work and what that entails, your own support system, the people around you. Also, especially for women, if you’re considering thinking about having children in the future. That’s really important for us to understand. All of these things can have an impact on finding the right medication for you.

Tell your healthcare provider about:

  • Health conditions
  • Medications
  • Supplements
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Work
  • Support system
  • Additional considerations

Channing: So, Dr. West, you mentioned personal preferences earlier. Could you explain that a little bit more?

Dr. West: Yeah. I think personal preference actually really matters. Because again, remember, our goal is to give you a medicine that you are willing to take, one that you can take, and one that works with your lifestyle. For example, people might have preferences about how they want to take their medicine or the way it gets into you. Many people are concerned about side effects, and also what is acceptable for one is not necessarily acceptable for everyone. So we definitely want to take that into consideration.

Choose a treatment that you will take

Channing: Dr. West, why are safety risks something that someone should discuss with their healthcare provider?

Dr. West: Well, understanding treatment safety and someone’s acceptance of potential risks are important considerations when making a treatment decision. Everyone has a different level of risk that they are comfortable with. So the potential risks and benefits of treatment, as well as the potential risk of not treating, should be discussed.

Consider:

  • Treatment risks
  • Treatment benefits

Channing: Dr. West, thank you so much. This information is extremely helpful for someone like myself who is living with MS.

Dr. West: Of course! It has been my pleasure.

Channing: I remember when I first spoke to my healthcare provider about my treatment goals. For me, it was a very personal decision. It’s really important to be vocal about your personal preferences so your healthcare provider understands what is important to you. Being open about those needs then creates a more effective relationship with your healthcare provider.

Everyone’s experience with multiple sclerosis (MS) is different. Your healthcare provider should always be your primary source of information. The people in this video are paid spokespeople for Biogen.

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Creating a treatment plan

Channing and Dr. West talk about treatment goals. Learn how your disease progression and other health conditions you might have can impact your treatment decisions. 

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