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Early treatment of multiple sclerosis may bring long term benefits (11/08/16)

A new study, published in Neurology, has pointed to a possible benefit to patients of commencing MS treatment as soon as possible after symptoms appear.

In 2005, researchers recruited 468 patients who had the earliest signs of MS, such as troubles with vision or balance and suggestive brain lesions found via an MRI scan, to be placed into two groups. 

One group immediately received a standard treatment for MS, regular doses of interferon beta-1b, while the other received a placebo for as long as two years before being switched onto interferon or another drug. 

Over the course of the following 11 years, the researchers kept track of how the patients progressed, including whether they developed full blown MS. 

Of the remaining 278 patients in the study, they found that the early treatment group was 33 percent less likely to be diagnosed with clinical MS than those given delayed treatment. It also took them twice as much time to experience the first relapse of the disease and they experienced less relapses annually.

'Not much research has been done on how starting treatment this early affects the long-term course of the disease,' said lead author Dr. Ludwig Kappos of the University Hospital Basel in Basel, Switzerland in a statement. 'Our study adds to the evidence supporting treatment at the earliest sign of the disease and indicates that early treatment has a long-lasting effect on disease activity.'

Drugs such as interferon beta-1b have been shown to reduce the frequency and severity of flare-ups, but don’t appear to actually help reduce or prevent the actual damage being done to the brain, even when taken as early as possible. Indeed, the researchers of the current study found there were no differences in neurological damage or overall disability experienced between the groups.

'Overall, early treatment appears to have a benefit on relapses, especially early in the disease, but limited effects on other outcome measures, including outcomes reported by patients,' wrote Dr. Brian C. Healy, a neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, in an accompanying editorial.

Source: Medical Daily © 2016 IBT Media Inc (11/08/16)