Glatiramer acetate is a medication commonly marketed under the brand name Copaxone® in the U.S. This medication is prescribed to patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) to help reduce the number of episodes they experience. For MS patients, an episode is a period of worsening symptoms. Glatiramer acetate is an immunomodulator that helps prevent the patient's immune system from attacking the nervous system. It is not a cure for multiple sclerosis, and is intended to only help alleviate symptoms.
This medication is only available in the form of an injection. Patients will go to their doctor's office to receive an initial injection and to learn how to administer subsequent doses themselves. Glatiramer acetate is administered once daily. Patients will choose one of seven specific places on the body to inject themselves, such as the thighs, lower stomach, or arms. A record should be kept of the location of each injection so that patients will only inject one specific place once every seven days.
Some side effects may occur with the use of glatiramer acetate, which should be reported to the prescribing physician if they become severe. Patients may experience nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, as well as loss of appetite. Joint aches, headache, and neck pain may occur, along with chills. The skin at the injection sites may be swollen, red, or painful and patients may also notice purple patches on the skin or white spots in the mouth. Other possible side effects can include abnormal dreams, sweating, and urgent bowel or bladder requirements.
This drug may also cause a reaction immediately after each injection, which should go away after a few minutes. After the first few months of treatment, this immediate reaction should dissipate. Patients should contact their doctors if they experience chest pain, flushing, and rapid heartbeat that do not go away after a few minutes. Other side effects can include anxiety, itching, and shortness of breath.
Glatiramer acetate may also cause other serious side effects, which require immediate medical care. These can include severe pain localized at the injection sites, fainting, and fever. Dizziness, uncontrollable shaking, and vision problems may also occur. Other patients have reported mood changes, swelling of the feet or legs, and difficulty swallowing or breathing.
Before using glatiramer acetate, patients should disclose their other medical conditions, medications, and supplements. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding must discuss potential risks with their doctors. It may be contraindicated for use by those with heart disease or kidney disease. This drug may interact with other medications. Patients should be aware that glatiramer acetate can suppress the immune system, leaving people more susceptible to infections and other illnesses.