Andy asks Dr. Helen Ford to explain the process in switching treatments.
Andy: So I want to switch treatments, could you explain the process?
Dr Helen Ford, Neurologist: I think first of all, the important thing to think about is why you want to switch treatments, so what’s the reason behind thinking about a switch of treatment. And obviously that can be for different reasons. Some people decide that they want to switch treatments because of the side effects they’re having from their current treatment. Other people may decide they want to switch treatment because they’re having continued relapses, so the effect isn’t as good as they had expected.
The other reason is because new evidence emerging about the treatment that you’re taking, so sometimes there are new unexpected risks that we didn’t know about and that may lead you to re-evaluate your treatment. So in terms of switching treatment I think the first thing to think about is what’s leading you to think about switching and really to discuss that plan with your neurologist or MS specialist nurse. I think the other thing to bear in mind is that switching treatment isn’t always risk-free. So there is sometimes a risk to switching treatment, so for people who are really well on their current treatment and are not having side effects and not having relapses, then, you know, it’s a big decision to decide to switch treatments. So I think that’s quite important, to bear that in mind as well.
Andy: I suppose also it might be difficult, once a switch has been made, to measure the difference in effectiveness of two treatments, because effectiveness isn’t something that can be measured in a given month or a given six months or maybe even in a given year, so is that right, that it’s then difficult to decide whether or not the switch has been successful?
Dr Helen Ford: I think it can be difficult, but I think what we’re aiming for with most of our disease modifying treatments is for people to be either relapse-free or to have fewer relapses than when they started treatment. So I think it’s always good to know and to document really, how your MS was before you started on any of the treatments, so how often were you having relapses. And so we then sort of calculate an annual relapse rate and we would then compare that when you’re on treatment. So at the least we would hope that your relapses are less on treatment and, you know, at the best that you’re actually free of relapses on treatment.
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