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Multiple Sclerosis

Copaxone is indicated for people with Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS) and is a funded prescription medicine for patients that meet special medical criteria.

What is Copaxone?
Copaxone is a synthetic mixture of four naturally occuring amino acids, which form a protein that is similar to a protein found in myelin.

What is Copaxone used for?
In the clinical trials conducted with people with Relapsing-Remitting MS (RRMS), Copaxone was shown to: 

  • Reduce the frequency of relapses.
  • Reduce the inflammation (measured by Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) occurring within the Central Nervous System (CNS)
Studies have also shown that people starting Copaxone therapy early after being diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS, receive more benefit from Copaxone therapy when compared to those that started later after diagnosis. While Copaxone is not a cure, it does have a positive impact on the measures of MS mentioned above in most patients.

How does Copaxone work?
  • Copaxone interacts with those elements within the immune process that are believed to be responsible for multiple sclerosis.
  • Copaxone is thought to work for people with MS by regulating their immune system so as to reduce and possibly counteract the immune damage occurring in MS.
The main way it is thought Copaxone does this is by:
  • Creating a shift from the excess pro-inflammatory cells that cause damage in MS, to the anti-inflammatory cell type that produce proteins that reduce inflammation.
  • These anti-inflammatory cells are thought to enter the CNS to act at the site of damage.
  • Once in the CNS the anti-inflammatory proteins released by these cells act to suppress/ reduce the number and activity of the cells of the immune system that cause the inflammatory damage.
Copaxone is thought to work differently from other MS medicines.

Will Copaxone be effective in people with other forms of MS?
Currently, there is not enough evidence to use Copaxone in other forms of MS. Copaxone is indicated in patients with Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis and treatment of patients with a single clinical event suggestive of multiple sclerosis when other diagnoses have been excluded.

How do know if Copaxone is working for me?
Once you have started on Copaxone, you may occasionally experience some symptoms of MS, but this does not mean that the therapy is not effective. Copaxone does not cure MS, however clinical studies have shown that for most patients, Copaxone can help to reduce the number of relapses in patients with relapsing remitting MS, slow down the progression of disability and reduce inflammation in the CNS, when compared with taking placebo (a compound used in a clinical trial which looks like the test drug, but contains no active medicine). Even if you still experience some symptoms of MS, the frequency and severity of these symptoms may be reduced compared to if you had not been taking Copaxone.

The best source of information regarding what you can expect from your Copaxone therapy is your neurologist and/or MS nurse.

How long will I have to take Copaxone?
Managing MS requires long term therapy. You may not feel any different when you start Copaxone, however this does not mean that it is not working. Without MS treatment, the immune system can continue to attack and damage the myelin in the CNS. It is important to take Copaxone every day to help reduce the inflammation in the CNS and help reduce the number of relapses. Copaxone is a long term therapy and you should continue to take it for as long as your neurologist recommends.

Should I continue treatment during a relapse?
Yes, you should continue to take Copaxone even while you are having an MS relapse, unless your neurologist recommends otherwise.

If I am already being treated with Interferon beta-1b (Betaferon®) or Interferon beta-1a (Avonex®) can I switch to Copaxone immediately or must I wait for a certain period of time?
Your neurologist will advise you on the best course of action.

What side effects are associated with Copaxone treatment?
The most common side effects reported with Copaxone are local injection site reactions. Symptoms can include skin redness, pain, itching, hard spots under the skin and swelling. Most of these local symptoms are mild and usually diminish with time. Please refer to the Consumer Medical Information (link below) for further information concerning side effects. If you experience any adverse reaction to Copaxone therapy, you should discuss these with your Neurologist and MS nurse.

Immediate Post-Injection Reaction (IPIR)
Some patients may experience a transient reaction after injecting Copaxone, known as an Immediate Post-Injection Reaction (IPIR). This reaction consists of various combinations of chest pain or tightness, palpitations (feeling your heart beating quickly), shortness of breath. Facial flushing (reddening of the face and /or neck), itching and anxiety. These side effects are usually short-lived.

The majority of patients will never experience an IPIR, with approximately 16% of people taking Copaxone in clinical trials experiencing such a reaction, and the majority of those experiencing an IPIR have only one or several episodes of these symptoms during the course of treatment.

Usually, the symptoms of an IPIR have their onset several months after starting treatment, although they may occur earlier in the course of treatment. The symptoms generally start immediately after injection, last between 30 seconds and 30 minutes (but in some situations they can last for more than one hour), and disappear spontaneously without specific treatment being required. At this point in time there have been no long term consequences reported with the IPIR. Make sure you discuss the IPIR with your neurologist and/or MS nurse at the commencement of Copaxone therapy.

If you think you are experiencing an IPIR, try to stay calm and contact your doctor or MS nurse as soon as possible.

How do I minimize the injection-site reactions?
Injection site reactions are common with all injectable therapies. The discomfort, redness or stinging associated with local injection-site reactions can be minimised by:
  • ensuring you are properly trained in the correct technique for injecting your Copaxone therapy
  • rotating the injection sites every day
  • making sure that the prepared Copaxone injection is at room temperature below 25°C before injecting (take out of the fridge at least 20 minutes prior to injection)
  • it may not be necessary to swab the skin with alcohol wipes before injecting
  • ensuring that the depth of injection is correct (set the autoject 2 to the depth recommended by your neurologist or nurse)
  • warming the injection site prior to injection has been shown to reduce injection site reactions (use a warm heat pack for 5 minutes pre injection)

You should discuss any injection-site reactions you experience with your doctor or MS nurse-they can provide further advice for management of these reactions.

When should Copaxone not be used?
Copaxone should not be used by patients with known hypersensitivity to glatiramer acetate or mannitol (an inactive ingredient in the pre-filled syringe).

Can I use other medications while taking Copaxone?
Results from clinical trials do not suggest any significant interactions of Copaxone with therapies commonly used by MS patients. This includes the concurrent use of corticosteroids. You should consult your Neurologist about taking other medications while taking Copaxone.

Do I need regular blood tests or other evaluations while using Copaxone?
Regular monitoring of blood or liver enzymes is not usually required when taking Copaxone.

I am planning to have children. Is it safe to use Copaxone during pregnancy?
If you or your partner are planning on starting a family, or if you have discovered you are pregnant, please consult your Neurologist who can advise you if you should continue your Copaxone therapy.

Is it safe for breastfeeding mothers to use Copaxone?
It is not known whether Copaxone is excreted in human milk and caution should be exercised when Copaxone is administered to a nursing mother. It is best to follow the recommendations of your Neurologist

My Support Team advice and information

My Support Team logo

What is the My Support Team patient support program?
It is only natural that you may feel a range of emotions when you are diagnosed with MS. You may have a multitude of questions about the condition, how it will affect you and most importantly, what you can do to help manage it. Your neurologist, MS nurses and the MS Society can help you with much of this information. In addition, there is a patient support program called My Support Team. My Support Team has been developed to assist you in understanding and using Copaxone and to help support you in the management of MS.

My Support Team is a patient support service operated by nurse consultants. They can offer telephone and email assistance with Copaxone therapy, also provide educational material and a patient resource kit, to help you to get the most out of Copaxone Therapy. The nurse consultants can be contacted Monday to Friday, 11am-7pm on 0800 502 802. 
PDF icon Download a Support Team Brochure (3Mb)

The information provided by My Support Team does not replace information or advice provided by your medical practitioner or MS nurse.

Who can participate in the program?
The program is open and free of charge to anyone with MS who has been prescribed Copaxone.

What materials will I receive as part of the My Support Team program?
On enrolment, you will receive a My Support Team resource kit. This kit is designed to assist
you  with Copaxone therapy and the injection process. The resource kit contains a variety of aids, including:
  • Autoject Device- to assist you with ease of administration.
  • FAQ booklet- a comprehensive booklet containing key information on Copaxone which helps you get the most out of your treatment.
  • Self-injection training booklet- to assist you through the injection process.
  • Sharps container- for needle disposal.
  • BD Safe-clip Device- needle clipping & storage device.
  • Travel roll
  • Hot/cold pack

If I am taking Copaxone, do I have to participate in the program?
Participation in the My Support Team program is entirely voluntary. If you want to participate, it will be necessary to complete and return an enrolment form. You can get these forms from your neurologist, nurse, from inside the resource kit or by contacting the My Support Team nurses on 0800 502 802. You may withdraw from the program at any time by contacting the My Support Team.

Note.  Information on this site is not intended to replace the advice given by your doctor or health professional.

COPAXONE® (contains 20mg of glatiramer acetate)

COPAXONE is a funded prescription medicine for patients that meet special medical criteria. Normal doctor’s fees will apply.

COPAXONE is used for the management of relapsing forms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and may also be used in patients who, for the first time, have experienced symptoms and have MRI changes that indicate a high risk for development of MS. COPAXONE has benefits and risks. Do not use COPAXONE if you are allergic to any of its ingredients. Tell your doctor if you plan to have surgery; are pregnant or breastfeeding; have allergies to any other medicines or any other substances, such as foods, preservatives or dyes; have ever had any medical conditions, especially asthma or a history of severe allergic reactions; are using any other medicines including those for which you needed no prescription. If you have any concerns about using COPAXONE, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. As with all medicines, COPAXONE can cause some side effects. Commonly reported side effects may include: hardening of the skin or an infection at the site where you have injected yourself, nausea (feeling sick), pain in the joints, sore muscles, feeling of weakness, dizziness; some patients may experience reddening of the face and/or neck, chest pain or tightness, quick heartbeats(heart palpitations), anxiety and difficulty in breathing. If symptoms continue or you have side effects, see your doctor, pharmacist or healthcare professional. Stop taking COPAXONE and call your doctor right away or get emergency treatment if you have swelling of the face, lips, mouth or throat; difficulty in swallowing or breathing; hives; chest pain or tightness; severe pain; redness or swelling at the injection site that does not go away. Self-injection needs to be taught and practised. Do not attempt self-injection until you are confident that you understand how to inject yourself. Ask your doctor if COPAXONE is right for you and always use COPAXONE strictly as directed. For further information, consult your doctor. Additional consumer medicine information can be obtained from Medsafe website or Seqirus, Auckland, Freephone 0800 502 757 or COPAXONE® is a registered trademark of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. Based on the COPAXONE consumer medicine information dated February 2012.

Helpful Links

Consumer Medicine Information
Medicine Data Sheet
Multiple Sclerosis Society of New Zealand

Last Updated: 23-01-2017
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