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MS Drugs Can Be Safely Taken While Breastfeeding
  • Posted March 5, 2024

MS Drugs Can Be Safely Taken While Breastfeeding

Certain drugs used to treat multiple sclerosis appear to be safe for babies if taken by breastfeeding moms, a new study finds.

Breastfed babies whose moms received monoclonal antibody treatments for MS did not develop any more developmental delays than babies not exposed to the drugs through breast milk. The findings will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's upcoming annual meeting, which takes place in April in Denver.

“Our data show infants exposed to these medications through breastfeeding experienced no negative effects on health or development within the first three years of life,” said researcher Dr. Kerstin Hellwig, a professor of neurology with Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany.

Monoclonal antibodies are used to treat MS by quelling the immune cells that are attacking the patient's nervous system.

MS occurs when the body's immune system attacks myelin, the fatty white substance that insulates and protects nerves. Symptoms include fatigue, numbness, tingling or difficulty walking.

However, most monoclonal antibody treatments for MS aren't approved for use while a mom is breastfeeding, the researchers noted. 

“Since the risk of MS relapses increases after giving birth, some mothers may need or want to restart these therapies, so it is important to determine whether these medications, through breast milk, have a negative impact on a child's development,” Hellwig explained in a meeting news release.

For this study, researchers focused on four monoclonal antibodies for MS: natalizumab, ocrelizumab, rituximab and ofatumumab.

The team used a German registry to identify 183 infants born to mothers with MS who were taking monoclonal antibodies while breastfeeding.

The babies' first exposure to the drugs through breastfeeding ranged from the day of their birth to the ninth month of life, researchers said. On average, infants were breastfed five and a half months while their moms took monoclonal antibodies.

Those infants were compared to another 183 children born to mothers also suffering from MS but not taking monoclonal antibodies.

For the first three years of life, researchers tracked the babies for developmental problems involving social and fine motor skills, as well as delayed speech development. They also looked at hospital stays, antibiotic use and infant weight.

In the end, they found no differences in health or development between the two groups, researchers said.

Findings presented at medical meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

Mayo Clinic has more about treatments for multiple sclerosis.

SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology, news release, March 4, 2024

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