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Healthcare Insights

Top 10 medications used to treat multiple sclerosis

What is multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves and leads to progressive neurological impairments such as memory loss, pain, blindness, and paralysis. It affects up to one million people in the U.S. and about 2.5 million people globally.

It is generally accepted that multiple sclerosis is driven by certain lymphocyte B and T cells attacking the myelin sheath that insulates and surrounds nerve cells.

While scientists and researchers have thus far been unable to identify the cause of MS with any certainty, there has been promising progress in other areas of MS study. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reports that significant strides have been made in the development of new treatments to prevent exacerbations of MS—and these discoveries are changing how MS patients are treated and the impact of MS-related disability.

What are the different types of multiple sclerosis?

MS disease progression generally follows four courses: clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), relapse-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS), secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS), and primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS).

It’s important to note that MS is highly individual, and the course of the disease can vary significantly from person to person, even within the same type.

The medications used to treat MS are referred to as disease-modifying therapies, and each has an indication from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the type of multiple sclerosis course it treats.

Using data from our Atlas All-Payor Claims and Atlas Prescription Claims datasets, this analysis determines the top multiple sclerosis medications by the percentage of patient share in 2023. Patient share is the number of patients with a prescription for a given multiple sclerosis drug in a given year divided by the number of all patients that received an MS drug in the given year.

Top multiple sclerosis medications by percentage of patient share in 2023

Rank MS medication % of patient share in 2023 Explore dataset
PREDNISONE 33.9% Explore
SOLU-MEDROL 23.9% Explore
OCREVUS 21.6% Explore
TYSABRI 6.0% Explore
AUBAGIO 2.2% Explore
10 TERIFLUNOMIDE 1.9%  Explore

Fig. 1 Data sourced from our  Atlas All-Payor Claims dataset for calendar year 2023. Claims data is sourced from multiple medical claims clearinghouses in the United States and updated monthly. Accessed February 2024.

What is the most prescribed drug for multiple sclerosis in 2023?

The most prescribed multiple sclerosis medication in 2023 was prednisone, with a patient share of 33.9%, according to our all-payor and prescription claims data. Prednisone belongs to a class of drugs known as corticosteroids, which are typically used to suppress immune system responses and help with hormonal imbalances, among other use cases. This drug is commonly used to manage acute exacerbations in MS patients.

The second most common MS drug prescribed in 2023 was Solu-medrol, with a patient share of 23.9%. Like prednisone, Solu-medrol is also a corticosteroid and can be used to treat acute flare-ups of multiple sclerosis. It works by reducing inflammation in the central nervous system and closing the blood-brain barrier.

In third place is Ocrevus, which had a patient share of 21.6% in 2023. Ocrevus is an FDA-approved therapeutic monoclonal antibody administered every six months to treat RRMS and PPMS patients.

Multiple sclerosis clinical trials and emerging research

While there is currently no cure for multiple sclerosis, scientists continue to gain new insight into the causes, treatment strategies, and risk factors of MS.

Of note is the ongoing work to develop new and better disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) to treat multiple sclerosis. Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitor and stem cell transplantation are two emerging therapies scientists are exploring.

Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitors for MS treatment

BTK inhibitors work mainly by suppressing the function of specific immune system cells that play a role in the inflammatory process believed to contribute to the development of MS. BTK inhibitors are currently undergoing phase two and three clinical trials and show potential as a promising new approach to treating MS. Taking this medication could possibly help calm inflammation in MS patients and protect nerve cells from damage.

Stem cell transplants for MS treatment

Another emerging treatment is stem cell transplantation. This process works by first destroying the immune system of an MS patient, likely through a high dose of chemotherapy. Then, healthy stem cells would be infused into the patient to create a new immune system that hopefully won’t attack the myelin sheath, potentially outright stopping or slowing the progression of the disease.

While both treatments show promise, they are still in the experimental stage of their development. Research is ongoing to improve the safety and long-term efficacy of both stem cell transplantation and BTK inhibitors.

Learn more

Healthcare Insights are developed with healthcare commercial intelligence from the Definitive Healthcare platform.

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