Long-Term Benefit Seen for Early Treatment of MS Symptoms

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Long-Term Benefit Seen for Early Treatment of MS Symptoms
Long-Term Benefit Seen for Early Treatment of MS Symptoms

FRIDAY, Aug. 12, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Patients who receive early treatment for symptoms consistent with the onset of multiple sclerosis (MS) are about one-third less likely to eventually be diagnosed with MS than participants whose treatment is delayed, according to a study published online Aug. 10 in Neurology.

Ludwig Kappos, M.D., a professor and chair of neurology at University Hospital and University of Basel in Switzerland, and colleagues randomly assigned 468 people with early MS symptoms to either receive early treatment or an inactive placebo. Participants in the treatment group received interferon beta-1b. After two years, or earlier with official diagnosis of MS, those taking the placebo could switch to the study drug or another medication.

After 11 years, researchers re-evaluated the 278 patients still participating. There were 167 patients from the early-treatment group and 111 from the delayed-treatment group. Those who received early treatment were 33.0 percent less likely to be diagnosed with MS than those in the delayed-treatment group. Patients in the early-treatment group also experienced a 19.1 percent lower annual relapse rate. In addition, participants taking early treatment experienced twice the average time -- 1,888 days compared to 931 days -- before their first MS relapse.

"The surprise is that after 11 years, we were still able to detect a difference favoring early treatment, although the delay in starting treatment in the delayed treatment group was only 1.5 years on average," Kappos told HealthDay. "The most astonishing observation was that relapse rates remained lower in most of the years after both groups had equal access to treatment."

Funding for the study was provided by Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals. Bayer makes Betaseron, a brand version of the drug used in this study.

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