Treating relapsing MS

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS), you may be ready to learn more about a relapsing MS treatment option.

MS medications | Living with MS Expand this section

Relapsing MS medications

Disease-modifying drugs (DMDs)
These are commonly prescribed to treat relapsing MS. These therapies include beta interferons, glatiramer acetate, dimethyl fumarate, and fingolimod.

Learn about one treatment option for relapsing MS

Complementary and alternative medicines
These include everything from specific exercise and diet regimens to the addition of certain food and herbal supplements to incorporation of stress management strategies. These approaches don’t fall under what is considered conventional medicine. The important distinction between complementary and alternative is this:

  • Complementary therapies are those that are used along with conventional medical interventions
  • Alternative therapies are those used instead of conventional medicine

Of course, you should talk to your doctor before taking any new medications or stopping your prescribed MS treatment.

Living with MS

Some things are a good idea whether you are living with MS or not. Among them are:

  • Keeping a positive attitude
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercising to sustain or regain mobility
  • Adequate sleep to help combat fatigue
  • Stress management techniques (less stress is always good)

Another good idea is to reach out to your MS community when you need help. MS LifeLines Ambassadors, people just like you living with MS, are available to talk 24/7.

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Getting on MS treatment

It is important to get on treatment with disease-modifying drugs (DMDs) soon after diagnosis. Why? Because MS can still be active, even when you don’t notice the outward signs.

Expand this section

Find out about the benefits that one disease-modifying treatment offers

A reality of MS is that permanent damage to nerve fibers may occur early in the disease. So both The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) advise treating active relapsing MS with a disease-modifying drug soon after diagnosis.

If you’re newly diagnosed, this can be a lot of information to take in. However, our Doctor Conversation Starter can help enhance your conversations with your doctor as you look for the right treatment.

Be informed and educated about your MS treatment decisions. That’s what we call being MSmart.

How to Be MSmart

Randall Schapiro, MD, FAAN, explains some of the ways you can educate yourself and play a greater role in treatment decisions.

Watch now

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Treatment goals

When it comes to treating your relapsing MS, your doctor will most likely have three key treatment goals in mind.

Treatment goals | Assessment Expand this section

They include slowing disability progression, reducing the frequency of relapses, and reducing the development of new brain lesions as seen on MRI. The exact correlation between MRI findings and the current or future clinical status of patients, including disability progression, is unknown.

Once you’re on a treatment plan, your doctor will pay attention to any side effects and other factors to assess how well your particular plan is working. For example:

  • Have you had any flare-ups (also known as relapses)?
  • Are there any changes in your neurological exam? Do those changes suggest disability progression?
  • Are there any changes on your MRI, such as new lesion development?

Keeping track of your symptoms—what you’re feeling and when it occurs—is important information. We’ve tried to make that part a little easier with our Symptom Checklist. Simply fill it out, then print it and bring it along to your next appointment.

Learn about the treatment goals for one relapsing MS treatment

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Safety and tolerability

When you take a drug, there are two important terms to know. The first, safety, refers to things that can happen that may present a risk and/or require medical attention—investigation, monitoring, or potential treatment. You might not feel a safety issue at all, so your healthcare provider will test you periodically to monitor for safety concerns.

Learning from real-world experience Expand this section

Tolerability is more related to how a drug makes you feel—like if there are uncomfortable side effects. Sometimes people can put up with effects like these to meet their treatment goals. Other times, these effects are unbearable, so a change of treatment may be recommended. And occasionally, a side effect can also be a safety issue, too.

Find out about the safety profile of one relapsing MS treatment

Learning from real-world experience

The FDA approves drugs based on clinical trials that establish them as both effective and safe. Once drugs are widely prescribed, we see how they work across a broader range of patients. Sometimes, adverse reactions not seen in clinical trials are reported after approval.

Pharmaceutical companies have drug safety divisions specifically dedicated to patient safety. They are responsible for identifying, reporting, and following up on any adverse events. Along with the FDA, they continuously monitor a drug's safety profile over the life of the product.

Should important new information be reported, in some cases the Prescribing Information (PI) is updated to ensure the correct and current safety information is available for patients and healthcare providers. It's important that you discuss all your health issues and questions with your healthcare provider before deciding which therapy is right for you.

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Changing treatment

During the course of your treatment for relapsing MS, your healthcare provider may determine that your current MS treatment is no longer the best choice for you.

Some reasons for changing MS treatments Expand this section

Because there isn’t one treatment that works for every person, sometimes people with relapsing MS are prescribed different treatments before finding the one that works for them.

Some reasons for changing MS treatments:

  1. Healthcare provider believes current therapy isn’t working
  2. Looking for more affordable access to therapy
  3. Having trouble staying on therapy because of the side effects
  4. Looking for additional support services to help start and stay on therapy
  5. Seeking a treatment regimen that works for you

In addition to these factors, it may be helpful to compare data from head-to-head studies.

Learn about one head-to-head study

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Talking to your healthcare provider

Have you ever left an appointment and realized you forgot to ask a question or discuss something? Are you overwhelmed by some of the language your healthcare provider uses to discuss your test results or your MS? Here are some ideas to help:

Preparing for a visit Expand this section
  • Bring a friend with you.
    It can be a big help to have another person listening and taking notes, so you can remember the details later.
  • Write your questions down ahead of time.
    Prioritize the top three questions you’d like to ask during your appointment, and remember to take notes during your visit.
  • Ask your healthcare provider to explain anything you don't understand.
    Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. He or she is part of your MS team.
  • Try not to downplay your symptoms or feelings.
    Remember, the people on your healthcare team are experts in caring for people living with relapsing MS—try to tell them exactly how you are doing.
  • Ask about follow-up.
    Is it best to get in touch by phone or email, or should you plan another visit?
  • Keep all your medical records in one place.
    Store your appointment notes, invoices, test results, Treatment Journal, etc in a binder or box, so you can refer to them quickly and easily.

Doctor Conversation Starter

Feel empowered at your next appointment with your healthcare provider. Use our helpful Doctor Conversation Starter. DOWNLOAD NOW.

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MS LifeLines Ambassadors are sponsored by EMD Serono, Inc.


Rebif® (interferon beta-1a) is used to treat relapsing forms of MS to decrease the frequency of relapses and delay the occurrence of some of the physical disability that is common in people with MS.

Important Safety Information

Before beginning treatment, you should discuss the potential benefits and risks associated with Rebif with your healthcare provider.

Rebif can cause serious side effects. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the symptoms listed below while taking Rebif.

  • Behavioral health problems, including depression and suicidal thoughts. You may have mood problems including depression (feeling hopeless or feeling bad about yourself), and thoughts of hurting yourself or suicide
  • Liver problems or worsening of liver problems, including liver failure. Symptoms may include nausea, loss of appetite, tiredness, dark colored urine and pale stools, yellowing of your skin or the white part of your eye, bleeding more easily than normal, confusion, and sleepiness. During your treatment with Rebif you will need to see your healthcare provider regularly and have regular blood tests to check for side effects
  • Serious allergic and skin reactions. Symptoms may include itching, swelling of your face, eyes, lips, tongue or throat, trouble breathing, anxiousness, feeling faint, skin rash, hives, sores in your mouth, or skin blisters and peels
  • Injection site problems. Symptoms at the injection site may include redness, pain, swelling, color changes (blue or black), and drainage of fluid
  • Blood problems. Rebif can affect your bone marrow and cause low red and white blood cell and platelet counts. In some people, these blood cell counts may fall to dangerously low levels. If your blood cell counts become very low, you can get infections and problems with bleeding and bruising. Your healthcare provider may ask you to have regular blood tests to check for blood problems
  • Seizures. Some people have had seizures while taking Rebif

Rebif will not cure your MS but may decrease the number of flare-ups of the disease and slow the occurrence of some of the physical disability that is common in people with MS.

Do not take Rebif if you are allergic to interferon beta, human albumin, or any of the ingredients in Rebif.

Before you take Rebif, tell your healthcare provider if you have or have had any of the following conditions:

  • mental illness, including depression and suicidal behavior
  • liver problems, bleeding problems or blood clots, low blood cell counts, seizures (epilepsy), or thyroid problems
  • you drink alcohol
  • you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if Rebif will harm your unborn baby. Tell your healthcare provider if you become pregnant during your treatment with Rebif
  • you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. It is not known if Rebif passes into your breast milk. You and your healthcare provider should decide if you will use Rebif or breastfeed. You should not do both

Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins and herbal supplements.

The most common side effects of Rebif include:

  • flu-like symptoms. You may have flu-like symptoms when you first start taking Rebif. You may be able to manage these flu-like symptoms by taking over-the-counter pain and fever reducers. For many people, these symptoms lessen or go away over time. Symptoms may include muscle aches, fever, tiredness, and chills
  • stomach pain
  • change in liver blood tests

Tell your healthcare provider if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.

These are not all the possible side effects of Rebif. For more information, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist.

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects.

Refer to the Instructions for Use that comes with the Rebif® Rebidose® (interferon beta-1a) autoinjector.

This information is not intended to replace discussions with your doctor. For additional information about Rebif, please consult the Prescribing Information and Medication Guide and talk to your doctor. You can also visit or call, toll-free, 1-877-447-3243. Rebif is available by prescription only.

Rebif, Rebif Rebidose, Rebiject II, MS LifeLines, and the Rebif logo are registered trademarks of EMD Serono, Inc. or its affiliates.

Brought to you by EMD Serono, Inc., the marketer of Rebif in the US.

This information is intended only for residents of the United States.