Treating multiple sclerosis at home … with MS nurses

MS-Schwester, MS, Zuhause

Treating multiple sclerosis at home … with MS nurses

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In Germany, 120.000 to 140.000 people are affected by multiple sclerosis or MS. The German Multiple Sclerosis Society (DMSG) defines MS as “an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system that includes the brain and the spinal cord and usually begins in the early adult age“. It manifests itself differently with each patient. Accordingly, the therapy must be administered individually. MS is not curable, yet its symptoms can be alleviated and disease´s progress can be slowed down.

MS medication for home use

MS is treated according to its activity, i.e. how heavy its acute phases are, how often they occur. A therapy of these acute phases is treated with cortisone preparations. Long-term immunotherapy aims to reduce the frequency and severity of the acute phases. Medications used in this therapy at home are for instance:

  • Avonex: Injected into the muscle once a week. It must be kept in the refrigerator.
  • Betaferon: Injected every second day into the subcutaneous fat tissue. To be kept at 25 ° C.
  • Rebif: Injected into the hypodermic tissue three times a week. Store in a refrigerator.
  • Copaxone: Injected daily or several times a week into the subcutaneous fat tissue. To be stored in the refrigerator.
  • Imurek: Tablets are taken once daily.

Where MS nurses can help

Patients rarely find doctors or neurologists for practical questions concerning their drug administration: How do I set the injection correctly? How to react to side effects? In addition, doctors rarely have time to respond to a patient´s questions. Here, the MS nurses come into play. MS nurses are specially trained nurses who visit patients at the beginning of MS therapy at home, inform them, advise them, explain how to put the syringe and give them personal assistance. Thus they form an important supplement to physicians and neurologists.

How to become MS nurse?

The idea of MS nurses as a service program came from the pharma companies. In the late 1990s, nurses were specially trained to assist patients in administering MS medication at home. Due to the poor adherence to MS medication at that time, the termination rate was very high. As studies show, the termination rate for MS injection therapy even today is very high in the first three months. Every fourth patient stops the therapy. With MS nurses the rate is significantly reduced: from 26 per cent to only 6 per cent. The interests of the MS nurses who are paid in full or in part by the pharmaceutical manufacturers are not always clear. The opinion about MS nurses expressed in MS online forums is divided. Some patients report of MS nurses who appear as mere advertisers, others that their MS nurse has taken care of them very well and professionally – regardless of which company is paying them.

Since 2007, there are also pharma-independent MS nurses, which are trained by the DMSG in cooperation with other MS centers across Europe. Nurses are trained through self-study and intensive seminars to take care of MS patients at home. 150 nurses have already completed the training, more will follow.

MS nurses will certainly remain important in the future as more and more drugs against MS conquer the market. Medicines, for which the patient needs help at home.

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