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What happens when multiple sclerosis patients stop taking their medication?

April 21, 2015

New research led by NYU Langone Medical Center examines what happens when a patient with multiple sclerosis (MS) who is clinically stable stops taking their medication.

The international, multi-site study found almost 40 percent of patients had some disease activity return when they stopped taking their meds. The findings were presented at the American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting held April 18-25, in Washington, D.C.

"Despite long periods of disease stability while taking medication, we found a large minority of patients who stopped experienced relapses or disability progression," says lead study author Ilya Kister, MD, an assistant professor of neurology at the NYU Langone Multiple Sclerosis Comprehensive Care Center. "We need to identify situations when it is safe for patients with MS to stop taking these medications."

Little is known about MS disease progression after first-line, disease-modifying therapies are discontinued in clinically-stable patients. For the study, Dr. Kister and colleagues prospectively studied 181 patients from the global observational MSBase Registry, examining MS relapse rates and disability progression rates in patients who stopped taking disease-modifying therapy.

Patients in the study were ages 40 and older, had experienced no relapses and reported stable disability progression (measured by EDSS scores) for at least 5 years, and had been taking medication for at least three years. Once medications were ceased, patients were followed for at least three years. After discontinuing medication, 24 percent of patients experienced a clinician-reported relapse, 32 percent sustained three-month disability progression, and 10.6 percent of patients recorded both relapses and disability progression.

Researchers found 77 patients - or 42 percent - restarted medication after a median of 22 months. Restarting medication was associated with a 59-percent risk reduction of disability progression.

Posted in: MS Treatments - Tagged (1): multiple sclerosis

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