How can NAbs affect your MS therapy? This is an ongoing area of study, and we do not yet have a complete understanding of the effects of NAbs on MS treatment. However, knowledge in this area has come a long way in recent years. Here's what we do know:
NAbs may make your interferon medication less effective. Some people taking interferon medications, such as Avonex® (interferon beta-1a once weekly), Rebif® (interferon beta-1a three times weekly), or Betaseron® (interferon beta-1b), find that NAbs may decrease the effectiveness of their treatment, with effects including:
- higher relapse rates
- more active MS as shown on MRI scans
New studies also suggest that people who develop NAbs may also experience faster progression of their MS.
People taking Copaxone® (glatiramer) can also develop NAbs. But in this case, there is no general agreement as to whether these NAbs actually have any effect on treatment.
The effects of NAbs sound alarming, but there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Most people do not develop NAbs to their treatment (see "Am I at risk?" for more information)
- NAbs do not always make your treatment less effective and they are not the only factor that determines whether your treatment will be effective. People with high levels of NAbs that continue over long periods of time are most at risk of decreased treatment effectiveness.
- NAbs take time to develop, and it can be years before they affect your treatment. NAbs usually appear after 12-18 months of treatment. But one study has found that the NAbs did not start to have a significant effect on treatment effectiveness until about 4 years of treatment.
- Up to 50% of people with NAbs find that the NAbs go away on their own over time. NAbs are more likely to go away if you have low NAb levels.
It's important to understand that testing positive for NAbs does not mean that you will need to stop or change your MS treatment. In deciding whether to switch treatment, you and your doctor will need to consider your symptoms and MRI test results to see whether the NAbs are affecting your response to the medication. If your medication is still working well for you, there may be no need for a change. If your medication is not working as well as it once did, and you have tested positive for NAbs more than once, switching to a non-interferon medication such as glatiramer may be an option.
If you are concerned about NAbs, talk to your doctor for more information and guidance.
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