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MS research update - Does beta interferon help secondary progressive MS - 12 September 2012

Most people with MS are diagnosed with the relapsing remitting form (RRMS). This is characterised by periods when symptoms get worse (relapses) and times when symptoms get much better or go away (remissions). Many people who are initially diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS find that, over time, the frequency of relapses decreases but disability gradually increases. This is known as secondary progressive MS.

Disease modifying drugs, including beta interferon, are often prescribed for people with relapsing remitting MS. Disease modifying drugs affect the immune system and calm down the inflammation that causes relapses. People with secondary progressive MS, who continue to experience relapses, may be kept on an appropriate disease modifying drug. However, people with secondary progressive MS who no longer have relapses are usually advised to stop treatment as progressive MS is thought to be caused by permanent degeneration to the nerves, rather than new episodes of inflammation.

In this project, the researchers combined the results of five randomised placebo controlled trials involving 3,082 people with secondary progressive MS. They found that, after three years, beta interferon had not reduced disability progression. However, there was a small decrease in the number of people who had relapses during the first three years of treatment.

This project uses an approach where the results of previous studies are combined. As there is agreement between the studies, the analysis provides more powerful evidence than the individual trials could on their own. In this case, they confirm the established idea that beta interferon is only useful for reducing the number of relapses but not for preventing disability progression.

La Mantia L, Vacchi L, Rovaris M, et al.
Interferon β for secondary progressive multiple sclerosis: a systematic review.
J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2012 Sep 5. [Epub ahead of print]

Read more

You can read more about the different types of MS and about disease modifying drugs in the A-Z of MS. You can also read, download or order the MS Trust books on disease modifying drugs and on secondary progressive MS

Research by topic areas...


Zéphir H, Bodiguel E, Bensa C, et al.
Recommendations for a definition of multiple sclerosis in support of early treatment.
Rev Neurol (Paris). 2012 Apr;168(4):328-37.

Other treatments

Sussman D, Patel V, Del Popolo G, et al.
Treatment satisfaction and improvement in health-related quality of life with onabotulinumtoxinA in patients with urinary incontinence due to neurogenic detrusor overactivity.
Neurourol Urodyn. 2012 Sep 10. doi: 10.1002/nau.22293.[Epub ahead of print]

Preziosi G, Gosling J, Raeburn A, et al.
Transanal irrigation for bowel symptoms in patients with multiple sclerosis.
Dis Colon Rectum. 2012 Oct;55(10):1066-73.

Podda G, Constantinescu CS.
Nabiximols in the treatment of spasticity, pain and urinary symptoms due to multiple sclerosis.
Expert Opin Biol Ther. 2012 Sep 7. [Epub ahead of print]


Conradi S, Malzahn U, Paul F, et al.
Breastfeeding is associated with lower risk for multiple sclerosis.
Mult Scler. 2012 Sep 4. [Epub ahead of print]

Paediatric MS

Vargas-Lowy D, Chitnis T.
Pathogenesis of Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis.
J Child Neurol. 2012 Sep 10. [Epub ahead of print]

Psychological aspects

Bruce J, Hancock L, Roberg B, et al.
Impact of armodafinil on cognition in multiple sclerosis: a randomized, double-blind crossover pilot study.
Cogn Behav Neurol. 2012 Sep;25(3):107-14.

Lovera JF, Kim E, Heriza E, et al.
Ginkgo biloba does not improve cognitive function in MS: a randomized placebo-controlled trial.
Neurology. 2012 Sep 5. [Epub ahead of print]

Physical activity

Sosnoff JJ, Sandroff BM, Pula JH, et al.
Falls and physical activity in persons with multiple sclerosis.
Mult Scler Int. 2012;2012:315620.

Kalron A, Achiron A, Dvir Z, et al.
Motor impairments at presentation of clinically isolated syndrome suggestive of multiple sclerosis: Characterization of different disease subtypes.
NeuroRehabilitation. 2012 Jan 1;31(2):147-55.


Mähler A, Steiniger J, Bock M, et al.
Is metabolic flexibility altered in multiple sclerosis patients?
PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e43675.

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