Long-Term Benefits With MS Drug

Interferon beta-1b drug trial follow up shows improvement in patients with PPMS

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS) has no established course of treatment. But follow up results from a drug trial provide a glimmer of hope for patients.

Patients who participated in a two year trial for interferon beta-1b showed continued improvement in a followup five years after ending treatment. The patients who had taken the drug had better functional outcomes and less brain atrophy than participants who had taken a placebo, according to a new study by Spanish researchers.

Interferon beta-1b is a drug currently used to treat relapsing-remitting and secondary-progressive forms of multiple sclerosis.

"Ask your doctor about treatment options for MS."

Primary progressive multiple sclerosis is one possible course of the disease that MS patients could be diagnosed with. PPMS is characterized by a steady decline of neurologic functioning, without the periods of attacks and remission that are typical of relapse-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS), the most common form of the disease.

PPMS is less responsive to treatments that are effective in RRMS. With PPMS, nerves degenerate rather than becoming inflamed. There are no medications that have been approved by the FDA to treat PPMS.

In the interferon beta-1b trial, results after two years did not show that the drug delayed disability progression. However, the drug was shown to be somewhat beneficial as measured by functional outcomes and MRIs.

While the patients stopped taking the drug after two years, the researchers followed up with an evaluation five years later. While the patients did no better on the test to measure disability progression, those who had taken the drug scored higher on tests involving manual dexterity and cognitive ability. They also did somewhat better on tests of spatial recall, symbol digit manipulation, and the Sickness Impact Profile.

Additionally, patients who took interferon had fewer brain lesions, but the differences between the group were not statistically significant. The researchers are not endorsing that PPMS patients take interferon, but they concluded that treatments that change immune system activity should be investigated further.

The study was published in November 2011 in the journal Archives of Neurology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 17, 2011
Last Updated:
November 17, 2011