Why is this medication prescribed?
Ponesimod is used to prevent episodes of symptoms and slow the worsening of disability in adults who have relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS; a disease in which the nerves do not function properly and people may experience weakness, numbness, loss of muscle coordination, and problems with vision, speech, and bladder control), including:
- clinically isolated syndrome (CIS; first nerve symptom episode that lasts at least 24 hours),
- relapsing-remitting disease (course of disease where symptoms flare up from time to time),
- active secondary progressive disease (later stage of disease with continuous worsening of symptoms.)
Ponesimod is in a class of medications called sphingosine l-phosphate receptor modulators. It works by decreasing the action of immune cells that may cause nerve damage.
How should this medicine be used?
Ponesimod comes as a tablet to take by mouth. It is usually taken once a day with or without food. Take ponesimod at around the same time every day. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand. Take ponesimod exactly as directed. Do not take more or less of it or take it more often than prescribed by your doctor.
Swallow the tablets whole; do not split, chew, or crush them.
Your doctor will probably start you on a low dose of ponesimod and gradually increase your dose for the first 15 days.
Ponesimod may cause the heartbeat to slow, especially during the first 4 hours after you take your first dose. You will take your first dose of ponesimod in your doctor's office or another medical facility. You will receive an electrocardiogram (ECG; test that records the electrical activity of the heart) before you take your first dose and again 4 hours after you take the dose. You will need to stay at the medical facility for at least 4 hours after you take the medication so that you can be monitored. You may need to stay at the medical facility for longer than 4 hours or overnight if you have certain conditions or take certain medications that increase the risk that your heartbeat will slow or if your heartbeat slows more than expected or continues to slow after the first 4 hours. You may also need to stay at a medical facility for at least 4 hours after you take your second dose if your heartbeat slows too much when you take your first dose. Tell your doctor if you experience dizziness, tiredness, chest pain, or slow or irregular heartbeat at any time during your treatment.
Ponesimod may help control multiple sclerosis but will not cure it. Do not stop taking ponesimod without talking to your doctor.
Your doctor or pharmacist will give you the manufacturer's patient information sheet (Medication Guide) when you begin treatment with ponesimod and each time you refill your prescription. Read the information carefully and ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions. You can also visit the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website (http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm085729.htm) or the manufacturer's website to obtain the Medication Guide.
Other uses for this medicine
This medication may be prescribed for other uses; ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
What special precautions should I follow?
Before taking ponesimod,
- tell your doctor and pharmacist if you are allergic to ponesimod, any other medications, or any of the ingredients in ponesimod tablets. Ask your pharmacist or check the Medication Guide for a list of the ingredients.
- tell your doctor and pharmacist what other prescription and nonprescription medications, vitamins, nutritional supplements, and herbal products you are taking or plan to take. Be sure to mention any of the following: alemtuzumab (Campath, Lemtrada); amiodarone (Nexterone, Pacerone); beta-blockers such as atenolol (Tenormin, in Tenoretic), carteolol, labetalol (Trandate), metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol-XL, in Dutoprol, in Lopressor HCT), nadolol (Corgard, in Corzide), nebivolol (Bystolic, in Byvalson), propranolol (Inderal LA, Innopran XL), sotalol (Betapace, Sorine, Sotylize) and timolol; carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Equetro, Tegretol, others); digoxin (Lanoxin); diltiazem (Cardizem, Cartia, Tiazac, others); modafinil (Provigil); phenytoin (Dilantin); procainamide; quinidine (in Nuedexta); rifampin (Rifadin, Rimactane, in Rifamate, others); and verapamil (Calan, Verelan, in Tarka). Also tell your doctor if you are taking any of the following medications, or if you have taken them in the past: corticosteroids such as dexamethasone, methylprednisolone (Medrol), and prednisone (Rayos); medications for cancer; and medications to weaken or control the immune system such as glatiramer acetate (Copaxone, Glatopa) and interferon beta (Betaseron, Extavia, Plegridy). Your doctor may need to change the doses of your medications or monitor you carefully for side effects. Many other medications may also interact with ponesimod, so be sure to tell your doctor about all the medications you are taking, even those that do not appear on this list.
- tell your doctor if you have or have had any of these conditions in the last six months: heart attack, angina (chest pain), stroke or mini-stroke, or heart failure. Also tell your doctor if you have an irregular heart rhythm or certain types of heart block, unless you have a pacemaker. Your doctor may tell you not to take ponesimod.
- tell your doctor if you have a fever or infection or if you have an infection that comes and goes or that does not go away. Also, tell your doctor if you have or have had ever had a heart attack, stroke, mini-stroke, diabetes, sleep apnea (condition in which you briefly stop breathing many times during the night) or other breathing problems, high blood pressure, uveitis (inflammation of the eye) or other eye problems, skin cancer, or heart or liver disease. Also tell your doctor if you have long QT syndrome (condition that increases the risk of developing an irregular heartbeat, which may cause fainting or sudden death), irregular heart rhythm, or if you have recently received a vaccine.
- tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding. You should use birth control to prevent pregnancy during your treatment and for at least 1 week after your final dose. If you become pregnant while taking ponesimod or within 1 week after your final dose, call your doctor. Ponesimod may harm the fetus.
- do not have any vaccinations for 1 month before you begin your treatment with ponesimod, during your treatment, and for 1 to 2 weeks after your final dose without talking to your doctor. Talk to your doctor about vaccinations that you may need to receive before beginning your treatment with ponesimod.
- tell your doctor if you have never had chicken pox and have not received the chicken pox vaccine. Your doctor may order a blood test to see if you have been exposed to chicken pox. You may need to receive the chicken pox vaccine and then wait 4 weeks before beginning your treatment with ponesimod.
What special dietary instructions should I follow?
Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, continue your normal diet.
What should I do if I forget a dose?
If you miss 1 to 3 days of ponesimod during the titration period (14-day starter pack), take the missed tablet as soon as you remember and continue your treatment by taking one tablet a day in the starter pack as planned. If you miss taking 4 or more days in a row of ponesimod during the titration period (14-day starter pack), call your doctor as you will need to restart treatment with a new 14-day starter pack. If you have certain heart conditions, you may need to be monitored by your doctor for at least 4 hours when you take your next dose.
If you miss 1 to 3 days of ponesimod after the titration period (maintenance dose) take the missed tablet as soon as you remember and continue your treatment. If you miss taking 4 or more days in a row of ponesimod after the titration period (maintenance dose), call your doctor as you will need to restart treatment with a new 14-day starter pack. If you have certain heart conditions, you may need to be monitored by your doctor for at least 4 hours when you take your next dose.
What side effects can this medication cause?
Ponesimod may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:
- pain in hands or feet
Some side effects can be serious. If you experience any of these symptoms, call your doctor immediately or get emergency medical treatment:
- slow heartbeat
- sore throat, shortness of breath, body aches, fever, burning with urination, chills, cough, and other signs of infection during treatment and for up to 1 to 2 weeks after your treatment
- weakness on one side of the body or clumsiness of the arms or legs that worsens over time; changes in your thinking, memory, or balance; confusion or personality changes; or loss of strength
- blurriness, shadows, or a blind spot in the center of your vision; sensitivity to light; unusual color to your vision or other vision problems
- nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, yellowing of skin or eyes, or dark urine
- new or worsening shortness of breath
Ponesimod may increase the risk of developing skin cancer. Tell your doctor if you have any changes to an existing mole; a new darkened area on skin; sores that do not heal; growths on your skin such as a bump that may be shiny, pearly white, skin-colored, or pink, or any other changes to your skin. Your doctor should check your skin for any changes during treatment with ponesimod. Limit the amount of time you spend in sunlight and ultraviolet (UV) light. Wear protective clothing and use a sunscreen with a high sun protection factor. Talk to your doctor about the risks of taking this medication.
Ponesimod may cause other side effects. Call your doctor if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.
If you experience a serious side effect, you or your doctor may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online (http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch) or by phone (1-800-332-1088).
What should I know about storage and disposal of this medication?
Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture (not in the bathroom). If your medication came with a desiccant packet (small packet that contains a substance that absorbs moisture to keep the medication dry), leave the packet in the bottle but be careful not to swallow it.
It is important to keep all medication out of sight and reach of children as many containers (such as weekly pill minders and those for eye drops, creams, patches, and inhalers) are not child-resistant and young children can open them easily. To protect young children from poisoning, always lock safety caps and immediately place the medication in a safe location – one that is up and away and out of their sight and reach. http://www.upandaway.org
Unneeded medications should be disposed of in special ways to ensure that pets, children, and other people cannot consume them. However, you should not flush this medication down the toilet. Instead, the best way to dispose of your medication is through a medicine take-back program. Talk to your pharmacist or contact your local garbage/recycling department to learn about take-back programs in your community. See the FDA's Safe Disposal of Medicines website (http://goo.gl/c4Rm4p) for more information if you do not have access to a take-back program.
In case of emergency/overdose
In case of overdose, call the poison control helpline at 1-800-222-1222. Information is also available online at https://www.poisonhelp.org/help. If the victim has collapsed, had a seizure, has trouble breathing, or can't be awakened, immediately call emergency services at 911.
Symptoms of overdose may include:
- slowed or irregular heartbeat
What other information should I know?
Keep all appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. Your doctor will order certain lab tests and eye exams, and will monitor your blood pressure before and during your treatment to be sure that it is safe for you to begin taking or continue to take ponesimod.
Do not let anyone else take your medication. Ask your pharmacist any questions you have about refilling your prescription.
It is important for you to keep a written list of all of the prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) medicines you are taking, as well as any products such as vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. You should bring this list with you each time you visit a doctor or if you are admitted to a hospital. It is also important information to carry with you in case of emergencies.