A Needle Phobic's Experience
I used Copaxone for 7 years as a means to slow down the progress of my MS (Multiple Sclerosis) I can't say I have the fondest of memories using Copaxone, since I am needle-phobic. However I can give you a glimpse into my Copaxone experience, allowing you to get a rough idea of what it was like and how I overcame my fear of needles-if only for 7 years.
Why Would a Needle Phobic Agree to Self-Injection?
Believe you me, I asked myself that very question the entire seven years I was on Copaxone. The short answer? I had no choice. I hadn't been on any medication to control my MS long-term since I stopped taking Betaseron years earlier. Betaseron, among the earliest of the injectables approved by the FDA had adverse side effects. Still, with only 8 months of the drug in my system, I remained relapse free for a good 3 years. I knew it would only be a matter of time before the relapsing part of my MS returned and once the attacks began, I was patiently encouraged by my PA (physician's assistant) to take some action to quiet down the MS before it attacked me in such a way that recovery would be difficult if not impossible.
- COPAXONE® -
Here is the official website for Copaxone. Click the blue link for total information about the drug, its side effects and injection tips. Teva manufactures and distributes Copaxone. Take your time and follow all the links of interest to you.
Decisions . . . Decisions . . .
At the time I started Copaxone, there were 3 drugs available to peope with MS.
Taking the first letter of each drug made it quite easy to refer to the drugs as the ABC drugs.
Presently, there is also Rebif, Novantrone and Tysabri. For a time they became known as the ABCR drugs, but with the additions of Novantrone and Tysabri they are mostly referred to as the ABC Drugs, Rebif, Novantrone and Tysabri.
All three of the ABC drugs are injectables. The needle length varies because while Copaxone and Beaseron are sub-cutaneous injectiions and require very small thin needles. Avonex is an intramuscular injection requiring a longer needle.
I did not want to give myself a daily injection, which is how Copaxone is administered. If I based my decision on shot frequency, I thought Avonex would be the easiest to do. At that time Avonex only required one shot every 3 days.
The rub was that Avonex like Betaseron would present with flu-like symptoms.(Both are interferons, used to treat cancer as well.) I had experienced flu-like symptoms the 8 months I took Betaseron. My body never adjusted to the medicine as I hoped, I found myself sick the day I took the medicine, then sick the day after I took the medicine, then sick because it was time to take the medicine again.
Even though Avonex would make me sick only 2 days a week, I decided that would still be 2 days too many. Being sick from MS itself, then sick from any side effects of medications you are taking, and adding to that being sick from an injectable was just too much sickness for me to handle.
I decided on what I thought was the easiest way for me to go, which would be for me to inject Copaxone every day, but with no flu-like symptoms.
If you are interested in researching each drug, please click on the blue links in this article under each drug's name.
Learn more about Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and the multiple sclerosis treatment AVONEX (Interferon beta-1a).
- Betaseron – Official Home Page
Official website for BETASERON (Interferon beta-1b) for the treatment of relapsing remitting MS.
- Rebif - Multiple Sclerosis - MS Lifelines
- TYSABRI (natalizumab)
TYSABRI.com - Multiple Sclerosis Treatment with TYSABRI (natalizumab)
Overcoming A Phobia
Phobia: " A persistent illogical or abnormal fear of a specified thing or situation."
How exactly does one overcome a persistent illogical fear of . . needles in my case? Short of seeking therapy can one WILL oneself to overcome a phobia? I thought it possible. I knew I wasn't the only one who disliked needles so much that I actually feared them. People have a fear of dogs, cats, mice, snakes . . . surely this can be successfully battled.
In my case, I was kind of right. I did battle successfully, although I never managed to get rid of the fear. "They" (the medical professionals, especially the experts manufacturing injectables) said, given time the initial fear would go away. Most people just have a fear of the unknown, they believed. Once the unknown was known, then the fear would go away.
For me, the more I got to "know" Copaxone, the greater my fear became.
You see, on top of the needle itself, you also have to worry that the drug isn't pushed in too fast, or that it doesn't drip from the needle, or that it doesn't hit a sensitive spot from past injections. There was just one big series of unknowns every time I took the drug. At least that was how I felt. Thinking about all that stuff made me do the dreaded START-AND-STOP
What Is The Start-and-Stop?
That's what I call the inability to stick myself with the needle. I start to do it, only to find I hesitate over and over again. I would begin telling myself, "Do it NOW! . . Do it NOW!" . . with no success. Sometimes I would sit there an extra 2-3 minutes before I would finally get up the nerve to give myself an injection. It was excruciating!
Copaxone came out with the self-injector pictured above. Takes all the fear away . . . NOT!
I was still too sore from the injection site reactions to trust anything or anyone but me to actually jab me with a needle. I could feel it as soon as I hit a wrong spot, but figured no one else, especially an auto-dispenser could do the same. So I never switched, I just kept giving myself the needle.
So I guess, my advice boils down to this, if it is important enough, follow Nike's advice and
"JUST DO IT!"
Even if the fear never goes away, I find having a reason to battle the fear will give you the insensitive needed to take the initial steps. You can get very brave when your swallowing ability has become impaired, for example.
Now that I have been off of Copaxone for about 3 years. I can honestly see myself going back to it, if they don't come out with a new oral medication soon, or if my MS gets so bad I have to do something about it on a more regular basis.
However, notice that I have been off of Copaxone for 3 years. It has taken me that long to get the foul taste of fear out of my mouth.
Still Waiting for the Pill
When I first started taking Copaxone, it was said that a new oral medication would be available within a few years. Every time it seemed the deadline arrived, the speculation would be a couple of more years, just a couple of more years.
Well seems like we just might finally be close to an oral drug being approved by the FDA in the next couple of years! I am hoping my MS will hold steady until it finally arrives. I will not be alone in welcoming a pill over an injection.
Until that day finally arrives, if you are newly diagnosed and trying to conquer your fear in order to take an injectable, don't forget you can always have a member of your family give you the injection until you are ready to do it solo.
If you are like me and gave up on the injectable for now, lets hope we can outlast the medical bureaucracy and hang in there until the FDA approves an oral medication. If our bodies can't outlast the delay, we know we did it once, so we can do it again, if need be.
Video of injection - for newly diagnosed
This video will demonstrate how easy it is to administer Copaxone using the latest tools. I did not administer the Copaxone in this way, but am considering doing so if I have to go back on Copaxone in the future. My tender spots are healed now and I don't think I will have the same concerns.
A nurse comes out and teaches you all you need to know to be able to administer the medication on your own.