The Facts About Disease-Modifying Therapies for MS

By Erica Patino
Reviewed by Adam Kaplin, M.D.
August 01, 2022

Before 30 years ago, a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) could be grim—there were no approved treatments that could affect the course of the disease, which in its aggressive form can cause symptoms like difficulty walking, talking, and swallowing. But that began to change in 1993, when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first disease-modifying therapy (also known as a DMT or disease-modifying drug) for MS.

Now, there are 20 disease-modifying therapies for MS approved by the FDA, plus a few others used off-label. Disease-modifying therapies, as the name suggests, are medications that alter the way MS affects the body.

“Disease-modifying therapies are meant to treat all relapsing forms of MS,” says Kalina Sanders, M.D., a board-certified neurologist at Baptist Neurology Group in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. “They do that by changing, or sometimes suppressing, the immune system.”