Managing and Treating MS

There are many ways to manage MS and you may find some ways suit you better than others.

Disease Modifying Therapies (DMTs)

If you have relapsing MS disease modifying therapies (DMTs) can mean you get fewer, and less serious relapses. They can slow down how fast your MS gets worse too.

In New Zealand there are now five funded first time treatment options for RRMS:

  • Aubagio (teriflunomide)
  • Gilenya (Fingolimod)
  • Ocrevus (Ocrelizumab)
  • Tecfidera (Dimethl fumarate)
  • Tysabri (Natalizumab)

Two other funded second line treatment options for RRMS are:

  • Copaxone (glatiramer acetate)
  • Interferons

Until recently DMTs couldn’t help people who don’t have relapses. But there’s now one DMT called Ocrevus (Ocrelizuma) that might help some people with early primary progressive MS.

It can be frustrating if treatments aren’t right for you or don’t work as well as you’d like. But lots of people with MS find it useful to actively manage their health in other ways, such as through diet and exercise.

Stem Cell Treatment

Stem cells can turn into different kinds of cells in your body. Hematopoietic stem cells make blood cells. A stem cell treatment called hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) is being used in some parts of the world to treat RRMS. There has been much research and clinical trials on HSCT for MS, with some promising results for some people. Research is on-going.

Currently people looking for Stem Cell treatment have gone overseas as it has not been available for people with MS in New Zealand. This has been at great cost to the individual, with some setting up Give-a-little pages to help fundraise to cover the cost.

However, things are always changing and it may be available in New Zealand for certain people who qualify under a set of guidelines. If you are interested in learning more about HSCT it is a good idea to do more research into this therapy and talk to your neurologist to see if this is something they would recommend for you.

MS Auckland magazine – Multiple News – has interviewed some people who have returned from Singapore, Russia and India after undergoing Stem Cell Therapy. If you are interested in talking to people about their experiences with HSCT then please get in touch with Ingrid@msakl.org.nz and we will look to connect you.

Diet and Exercise

There are many things that you can do to manage your MS along with taking medication, or if medication is not suitable for you.

Many people in Auckland follow the diet and guidelines of Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis – https://overcomingms.org/

The 7 step OMS programme includes:

  • Diet
  • Sunlight and Vitamin D
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Medication
  • Prevention in family members
  • Change your life, for life

An OMS book is provided to all newly diagnosed people in Auckland. This book provides useful information and advice and even if you are not ready to take in everything the book is suggesting, it may be a good starting point in taking control of your MS.

MS Auckland provides Hydrotherapy classes in pools around Auckland. Water exercise has been shown to be beneficial for people with MS. To find out more visit our page Hydrotherapy.

Complementary and Alternative Treatments

Many people will look for other ways to help make them feel better such as yoga, acupuncture, reflexology, and massage. These therapies won’t cure MS, but there’s evidence that some are helpful.

When deciding on complementary and alternative treatments it’s a good idea to discuss the therapy with your doctor, talk to others who have used the therapy, research the providers background, and make sure you know the total cost of the treatment up front.

Some red flags to watch out for:

  • Promotion – be cautious of products promoted through telemarketers, direct mailings, infomercials, or ads disguised as valid news articles
  • Big claims – if a product claims to be a ‘cure’ for MS or makes other outrageous claims, be wary!
  • Ingredients – make sure all active ingredients are listed. Do not trust ‘secret formulas’

Your Community Advisor is a good person to talk to about complementary and alternative treatments that are used by people with MS.