Relapsing-remitting MS patients and interferon beta

In patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, interferon beta did not alleviate the progression of the disease, according to a new study.

In patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS), interferon beta did not alleviate the progression of the disease, according to a new study.

The study, published in the July 18 issue of JAMA, was led by Afsaneh Shirani, MD, in conjunction with the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute.

Even though interferon beta drugs are the most widely prescribed drugs for treating relapsing-onset MS in the United States, there is a lack of well-controlled studies investigating the effect of interferon beta on disability progression, according to the researchers. The retrospective cohort study was based on British Columbia patient data from 1985 through 2008. Patients with relapsing-remitting MS treated with interferon beta were compared with untreated contemporary and historical cohort patients.

The observed outcome rates for reaching a sustained Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) score were 10.8% in for the interferon beta-treated group, 5.3% for the contemporary control chort, and 23.1% for the historical control group. However, after adjusting for sex, age, disease duration, and EDSS score, exposure to interferon beta was not associated with a statistically significant difference in the hazard of reaching an EDSS score of 6, according to the researchers.

“The ultimate goal of treatment for MS is to prevent or delay long-term disability. Our findings bring into question the routine use of interferon beta drugs to achieve this goal in MS,” the researchers wrote in the JAMA study.

However, it is possible that a subgroup of patients benefit from interferon beta treatment. “Further work is needed to identify these potential patients….paving the way for a tailored, personalized medicine approach,” the researchers wrote.