Beta interferon and progression
19 July 2012
Author: MS Trust
Research just published fails to show that taking beta interferon made any difference to the length of time it takes someone with MS to need a mobility aid.Beta interferon and progression Research just published fails to show that taking beta interferon made any difference to the length of time it takes someone with MS to need a mobility aid.
Previous research had shown that the beta interferon drugs (Avonex, Betaferon, Extavia and Rebif) reduced the number of relapses experienced by people with relapsing remitting MS by about a third compared to placebo. The effect of the reduction of relapses on long-term progression of MS has been less clear and this new research suggests it has little impact.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver studied medical records of people with MS dating back to the 1980s. They identified three groups - 868 people treated with one of the beta interferon drugs, 829 contemporaries who didn't have treatment and a group of 959 people whose MS had been studied before beta interferon was available.
The study looked at time from eligibility for treatment to EDSS 6 (a measure of disability equivalent to needing a stick or crutch to walk about 100m). There was no significant difference in time to this level across the three groups. There was also no difference in the time to EDSS 4 (able to walk without aid or rest for 500m).
In the treatment group, there was a higher risk of reaching EDSS 6 for those people who had higher disability scores or who were older at the start of treatment. Being female or having shorter disease duration were associated with a lower risk.
The researchers acknowledge that the study focussed on mobility and that factors such as quality of life and ability to work, all of which can benefit from the reduction in relapses that result from beta interferon treatment, were not considered.
Previous studies have suggested some effect on long-term disease progression, particularly if people start treatment early.
We welcome the publication of this study. It is well established that beta interferon can reduce relapses which is really important for people with MS. This can make a big difference to someones quality of life, for example allowing them to continue working. Reducing the accumulation of disability is also important. This study is useful as it adds to our understanding but further research will be necessary.Pam Macfarlane, Chief Executive of the MS Trust
Shirani A, et al.
Association between use of interferon beta and progression of disability in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis
Journal of the American Medical Association 2012;308(3):247-256.
Derfuss T, Kappos L.
Evaluating the potential benefit of interferon treatment in multiple sclerosis
Bermel RA, et al.
Intramuscular interferon beta-1a therapy in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis: a 15-year follow-up study.
Multiple Sclerosis 2010;16(5):588-596.
Goodin DS, et al.
Relationship between early clinical characteristics and long term disability outcomes: 16 year cohort study (follow-up) of the pivotal interferon ß-1b trial in multiple sclerosis.
Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry 2012;83(3):282-287.
- Disease modifying drugs - A to Z of MS
- Disease modifying drug therapy
- EDSS - A to Z of MS
- Latest MS research updates