There are many different reasons that people stop treatments for multiple sclerosis or for any condition for that matter.
Certainly, one of the more common ones is financial reasons. The medications for MS, especially the disease-modifying medicines are very expensive, and if someone has financial difficulty, they may not be able to pay their copays.
One of the other reasons is related to financial but maybe insurance coverage. So if someone loses insurance, they may not know that there are resources available to help cover their medicines. So one thing that’s very important is that if someone loses coverage of their insurance or runs into financial difficulty, it’s important to contact your physician because there may be ways for you to receive your medication for free. Unfortunately, I’ve had many patients who didn’t know that and we’re off their treatment and had severe consequences because they didn’t have access to that treatment when they really could have gotten it for free.
Another reason that people stopped treatment is that they may tire of taking or they may get tired of taking it. Especially with our injection medications, which were the first medications approved for much of the past 20 years. People were tired of doing their injections and so they got tired and worn out. They may have had side effects and they may have gotten discouraged.
I think that another important reason is that people do not have realistic expectations of what the medicines are supposed to do. When we treat MS with disease-modifying therapies, we are not fixing what’s already broken. We’re trying to prevent new things from being broken. And so if people have the expectation that their symptoms will get better and they don’t, they may become discouraged and stop taking their medicine because they feel like it’s not working. So we have to make sure that we set those expectations about what a medication working means so that everyone’s on the same page.
Dr. Mitzi Joi Williams is a top neurologist and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Specialist in Atlanta, Georgia. She received her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology from Emory University and her Doctor of Medicine degree from Morehouse School of Medicine. Dr. Williams completed her internship and residency in neurology as well as a Clinical Fellowship in Multiple Sclerosis at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, GA. Dr. Williams has a strong interest in understanding and furthering research in MS in ethnic minority populations. She is a sought-after speaker and presenter and has discussed her research both nationally and internationally at various scientific meetings. She has spearheaded and participated in multiple Steering Committees and Work Groups to further research in underserved populations with MS. She also has recently increased involvement in efforts to increase diversity in clinical research and educate the community about the importance of research participation. Dr. Williams is the author of MS Made Simple: The Essential Guide to Understanding Your Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis. Because of her passion for teaching and advocacy.