Common MS treatment may not slow disease progression

25 July 2012

A new study co-led by MSFHR Scholar Dr. Helen Tremlett has found that a widely prescribed drug treatment for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) does not significantly impact the disease’s long-term progression.

Dr. Tremlett’s research team examined health records of more than 2,600 MS patients in British Columbia and found no strong evidence that those treated with beta interferons progressed to disability differently than untreated patients. The findings provide patients and clinicians with valuable information about the long-term effects of beta interferons and may help shape future MS treatments.

“We know that this class of drugs is very helpful in reducing relapses, which can be important to patients,” says Tremlett in a UBC press release. “We do not recommend that patients stop taking these medications, but these findings provide evidence allowing more realistic expectations as to the anticipated benefits associated with drug treatment from the disability perspective.”

Tremlett’s team is preparing to conduct further studies examining beta interferons and other classes of disease-modifying drugs. The hope is that the research will ultimately lead to an individualized approach to MS treatment.

The study also highlights the enormous potential of linked health data to support research. For this analysis, data from the BC Ministry of Health, PharmaNet, and the BC Multiple Sclerosis (BCMS) database were linked and anonymized by Population Data BC, an MSFHR-funded platform. Population Data BC coordinates effective access to population health databases with the goal of improving researchers’ ability to evaluate the effectiveness of strategies to treat disease and promote health at the community level.