Fingolimod for Multiple Sclerosis

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Fingolimod for Multiple Sclerosis


Generic NameBrand Name
fingolimod Gilenya

How It Works

Fingolimod keeps certain lymphocytes (a type of cell that is part of the immune system) from moving out of the lymph nodes. This reduces the number of these cells that can get into the blood stream and then enter the central nervous system and cause inflammation in MS. It is not known exactly how the medicine works in multiple sclerosis (MS). But it may help people who have MS by preventing the body's immune system from attacking the myelin coating that protects nerve fibers.

Why It Is Used

Fingolimod is used to treat people with MS who have relapses followed by periods of recovery (relapsing-remitting MS). Fingolimod is the only disease-modifying drug (DMD) for MS that you can take by mouth (oral). Findings from clinical trials show that people treated soon after being diagnosed with MS may have better results than those who delay treatment.

How Well It Works

Fingolimod can:1

  • Decrease the number of relapses in relapsing MS.
  • Slow the progression of MS.
  • Reduce the number of new areas of damage (lesions) in the brain as seen on MRI.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor right away if you have:

  • Hives.
  • Signs of illness or infection, such as chills, cough, or fever.
  • Dark urine.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Yellow eyes or skin.
  • Light-colored stools.
  • Pain in the upper right belly.
  • Shortness of breath.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Back pain.
  • Cough.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Headache.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Fingolimod may cause a slow heartbeat when you first start taking the drug. Your doctor will check you for this side effect. It can also cause a serious eye problem called macular edema. Your doctor may want you to have your eyes checked before starting this medicine and from time to time while you are taking it.

Fingolimod can keep your immune system from fighting infection. When you are taking this medicine (and even when you have finished taking it), try not to be around people who are sick. And make sure you talk to your doctor before you get any vaccinations.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.


Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Cohen JA, et al. (2010). Oral fingolimod or intramuscular interferon for relapsing multiple sclerosis. New England Journal of Medicine, 362(5): 402–415.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerBarrie J. Hurwitz, MD - Neurology
Last RevisedMay 14, 2012

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