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Relapses, disability progression linked to stopping meds


New research finds that almost 40 percent of clinically stable multiple sclerosis patients had some disease activity return when they stopped taking their medications. Researchers also found that restarting medication reduced the risk of disability progression.

Little is known about MS disease progression after first-line, disease-modifying therapies are discontinued in clinically-stable patients. NYU Langone Medical Center researchers studied 181 patients from the global observational MSBase Registry, examining MS relapse rates and disability progression rates in patients who stopped taking disease-modifying therapy.

After discontinuing medication, 24 percent of patients experienced a clinician-reported relapse, 32 percent sustained three-month disability progression, and 10.6 percent of patients recorded both relapses and disability progression. Researchers found that 42 percent restarted medication after a median of 22 months. Restarting medication was associated with a 59 percent risk reduction of disability progression.

Medication can help to manage attacks, reduce symptoms, and slow the progression of MS. Some patients opt to discontinue disease-modifying medication because of side effects, perceptions they’re not feeling better or because they still experience exacerbations, or insurance purposes.

The findings were presented at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

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