No Added Benefit From MS Medications

Avonex and Copaxone combination therapy for multiple sclerosis offered similar benefit as monotherapy

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) While there is no cure for multiple sclerosis (MS), there are medications to manage the disease. Two of these medications work fairly well to control flare-ups. Could they work even better when combined?

Researchers recently set out to see if combining Copaxone (glatiramer acetate) and Avonex (interferon beta 1a) would be a more effective treatment for relapsing-remitting MS than either medication alone.

The researchers found that the combination treatment was not any better at controlling MS flare-ups than Copaxone alone.

However, combination treatment did lead to fewer lesions seen on MRI– areas of inflammation and damage to the central nervous system that cause symptoms of MS.

"Research new MS medications."

The research was conducted by Fred D. Lublin, MD, of the Corinne Goldsmith Dickinson Center for Multiple Sclerosis at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, and colleagues.

MS is a potentially crippling disease that attacks the nerves. Relapsing-remitting MS is characterized by attacks when symptoms flare up (relapse) followed by episodes with no symptoms (remission).

For their study, the researchers recruited 1,008 MS patients. These participants were randomly assigned to take Avonex plus Copaxone (499), Avonex alone (250) or Copaxone alone (259).

Patients taking Avonex received 30 µg injections directly into the muscle once a week, while those taking Copaxone received 20 mg injections daily. The researchers followed participants for three years.

Results showed that combination treatment was both safe and effective but not any more effective than Copaxone – the better of the two single treatments.

Both combination treatment and Copaxone alone were better than Avonex in reducing the risk of relapse.

Combination treatment was not better than either medication alone in slowing the progression of disability caused by MS. However, combination treatment reduced the number of new lesions as shown through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

"Combining the two most commonly prescribed therapies for MS did not produce a significant clinical benefit over three years," the authors concluded.

"While there was no substantial clinical benefit of combination therapy over monotherapy, we will continue to monitor these patients to see if the reduction in MRI lesion translates into a future clinical benefit," said Dr. Lublin in a press statement.

The study was published in the Annals of Neurology and funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders. Information on potential conflicts of interest was not available.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 13, 2013
Last Updated:
March 16, 2013