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Treatment of pediatric multiple sclerosis.

The past 10 years have borne witness to increased recognition and diagnosis of pediatric multiple sclerosis (MS). Additionally, during this time period, the number of treatment options available for MS patients has increased significantly, as has the number of studies evaluating the use of these therapies in children. Though the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not formally approved any of these therapies for use in pediatric MS, a number of injectable, oral, and intravenous treatments are currently being used off-label in these children. Disease modifying therapy should be initiated promptly following a diagnosis of MS. The patient and family should be engaged in the choice of therapy as this is likely to promote adherence. First-line options include any of the injectable therapies (glatiramer acetate, interferon beta), which have roughly similar efficacy (approximately 30 % reduction of clinical relapses). If a patient has breakthrough disease or persistent, unmanageable side effects, transition to a different first-line therapy or escalation to a second-line therapy, such as natalizumab, should be considered. Though the efficacy of second-line agents is higher, the potential risk of serious adverse effects also increases. New therapies, including oral agents, are now being rigorously studied with pediatric clinical trials and may provide safe alternatives for patients that are either unresponsive or intolerant to currently available medications. When necessary, acute exacerbations can be treated with corticosteroids. Intravenous methylprednisolone at a dosage of 30 mg/kg/day (maximum dose 1000 mg/day) for 3-5 days is recommended with severe attacks. If patients are unresponsive to corticosteroids, treatment with either intravenous immunoglobulin or plasma exchange may be required. Fatigue, spasticity, and pain can also occur in pediatric patients with MS. Medications are needed if symptoms are severe and impact quality of life.

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