April 23, 2012

Drug Reduces MS Likelihood

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — According to a recent study, people who received injections of the multiple sclerosis (MS) drug interferon beta-1a directly after noticing signs of possible MS were less likely to progress into definite MS compared to those who switched to interferon beta-1a from placebo.

Although it is not currently available in the United States, the trial was conducted with the human serum albumin-free formulation of interferon beta-1a, which is available in all European Union countries, Australia, Switzerland, Canada, and a number of countries in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia.

"While we've known it's beneficial to start MS drugs as soon as possible, this is the first trial to show a benefit of early injections of interferon beta-1a treatment at three years," Mark Freedman, M.S., with the University of Ottawa in Ontario, Canada, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology, was quoted as saying.

The clinical trial took three years and involved 517 people who had one clinical episode suggestive of a demyelinating event, such as tingling, muscle weakness, or problems with balance, coupled with having at least two silent brain lesions detected by a MRI scan.

Patients started their treatments 58 days after their first symptoms began.  One-third of the patients received 44 mcg of interferon beta-1a three times a week for two years; one-third received 44 mcg of the drug once a week (an unapproved dose); and the other one-third received placebo for two years.  After the two years were over, 133 people who were still receiving placebo were switched to three-times a week dose and the others continued their originally allocated dosages.

After the third year of the study, researchers found that patients who received the drug 3 times a week were less likely to be diagnosed with clinically definite MS (defined as having a second clinical attack or a sustained increase in the Expanded Disability Status Scale disability score of greater than 1.5) compared to those who received the placebo treatment.  The probability of being diagnosed by the third year was 41 percent for the delayed treatment group, 28 percent for the once-a-week treatment group, and 27 percent for those who had the drug three times a week.

Also, the study found that those who received the treatment for the full three years were less likely to meet the McDonald criteria for a MS diagnosis.  A total of 87 percent of people who had switched from the placebo after two years met the McDonald criteria for MS after three years, compared with 79 percent of patients who had received the weekly treatment and 67 percent of those who had treatments three times a week.

"While doses three times a week and once a week equally delayed a clinically definite MS diagnosis without MRI measures, there were significantly more benefits in taking the drug three times a week compared with once a week when it came to brain lesion changes and other McDonald criteria for diagnosing MS," Dr. Freeman was quoted as saying.

SOURCE:  American Academy of Neurology, April 2012