Copaxone (glatiramer acetate)

Copaxone® is a medication indicated for the management of clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), relapsing-remitting MS, and active secondary progressive MS. It is administered by subcutaneous (under the skin) injection. Copaxone comes in two strengths, 20 mg/mL and 40 mg/mL. The active ingredient in Copaxone is glatiramer acetate.

How does Copaxone work?

The way Copaxone works is not well understood. It is thought that glatiramer acetate may act by modifying immune processes that are believed to be responsible for the development of MS.

What are the possible side effects?

Many clinical trials evaluated the safety and efficacy of Copaxone. The most common side effects experienced by those taking Copaxone include:

  • Flushing (redness to your cheeks or other parts of the body)
  • Injection site reaction
  • Chest pain (a post-injection reaction or later,it usually lasts a few minutes and can begin around 1 month after you start using Copaxone.)
  • Fast heart beat
  • Anxiety
  • Breathing problems or tightness in throat
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Infections

Other rare side effects

Copaxone can cause other rare but serious side effects. These may include:

  • Allergic reactions such as swelling, rash, hives, or itching
  • Liver problems

This is not an exhaustive list of all potential side effects of Copaxone. For more information, consult your doctor or healthcare provider. If you notice any new or worsening side effects, including any chest pain when taking Copaxone, contact your doctor or healthcare provider right away.

Before starting Copaxone, talk with your doctor about any hypersensitivity to glatiramer acetate or mannitol.

Considerations to communicate to your doctor

Copaxone may be impacted by other medications; as well as affect the way other medications work. Your doctor will be able to tell you if any medications you are currently taking fall into these categories, or if they might impact your treatment with Copaxone. Pregnant or nursing mothers should discuss the use of Copaxone, as it is not known if the medication will impact a developing fetus, or if Copaxone is excreted through breast milk.

Administering Copaxone injections

Copaxone comes in a blister pack with prefilled syringes. Visually inspect each syringe for particulate matter and discoloration prior to use. The solution should appear clear, colorless to slightly yellow. If particulate matter (things floating around) or discoloration is observed, discard the syringe.

A healthcare professional should train patients or caregivers in the proper technique for administering subcutaneous injections. Typical injection sites are the abdomen, back of the upper arm, and thigh. Sites should be rotated to minimize the chance of injection site reactions. Injections should not be administered where the skin is bruised, irritated or red, infected, or scarred. Safe disposal practices should be used for needles and syringes.

Generic availability

Copaxone is the brand name for the compound glatiramer acetate. In recent years the FDA has approved two generic version of the medication. Glatiramer acetate injection is the therapeutic equivalent to Copaxone. The generic is comparable to the original in dosage, strength, and route of administration, quality, effectiveness, and intended use.

For additional details, read the full prescribing information of Copaxone.

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Written by: Jonathan Simmons | Last reviewed: July 2021.