Dimethyl Fumarate

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board

Dimethyl fumarate is a generic drug approved to treat relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS) in adults, including:1

What are the ingredients in dimethyl fumarate?

The active ingredient is dimethyl fumarate.1

How does dimethyl fumarate work?

The exact way dimethyl fumarate works in MS is not well understood. Dimethyl fumarate targets several pathways that are thought to reduce inflammation and the immune response that damages myelin. Myelin is the covering that forms around nerves in the brain and spinal cord that gets damaged in MS. It may also protect nerve cells from damage caused by chemicals released during an immune attack.1

Dimethyl fumarate is a disease-modifying drug (DMD). This means it may reduce relapses and the formation of new or worsening brain lesions in people with MS.1,2

What are the possible side effects?

Side effects can vary. The most common side effects of dimethyl fumarate include:1

  • Flushing
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain

These are not all the possible side effects of dimethyl fumarate. Talk to your doctor about what to expect when taking dimethyl fumarate. You also should call your doctor if you have any changes that concern you when taking dimethyl fumarate.

Benefits of generic drugs

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ensures that generic drugs have the same clinical benefits as their brand-name medicine. Generic drugs are created to be the same as their brand-name medicine in:3

  • Active ingredients
  • Safety
  • Strength
  • Effectiveness
  • Quality
  • Benefits

Some people may feel that a generic version of a drug is not as trustworthy. But this is not true. Research shows that using authorized generics leads to results just as good as those of brand-name products.4

Generics usually cost much less than their brand-name counterparts. This is because they typically do not have to repeat the same level of testing already performed for the brand-name drug. The active ingredients are the same, so these tests do not need repeating.3

The choice of a generic drug may also mean that more people will stick with their treatment. This is because research shows that reducing the costs of prescription drugs increases the chances someone will take the medicines prescribed by their doctor.5

Other things to know

Generic dimethyl fumarate pills look different from their brand-name competitor. This does not impact how dimethyl fumarate works.1,2

Flushing or redness of your skin can happen when you take dimethyl fumarate. Taking it with meals may decrease this side effect.2

Dimethyl fumarate can affect your liver and blood cell levels. Your doctor will check your liver function and blood cell levels before and during treatment. Report any signs of liver problems to your doctor, including:1

  • Loss of appetite
  • Dark brown urine
  • Yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes
  • Pain around the right side of your belly

The starting dose of dimethyl fumarate is different than the maintenance dose. Make sure you take the doses as ordered by your doctor.1

Before starting dimethyl fumarate, tell your doctor if you:1

  • Are allergic to dimethyl fumarate
  • Have now or have had in the past low white blood cell counts or any infection
  • Have any other medical conditions

There is not enough information to know if dimethyl fumarate is safe to take while pregnant or breastfeeding. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding.1

Before beginning treatment for MS, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you take. This includes over-the-counter drugs.

For more information, read the full prescribing information of dimethyl fumarate.

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