Stop DMTs and do the right thing; save the NHS money! #ClinicSpeak #MSResearch #MSBlog #ResearchSpeak
The small French study below concludes that in pwSPMS on DMTs it is safe to stop DMTs because the relapse rate stays relatively constant off, or on, treatment. Please note that 35% of the cohort had relapses, or MRI activity, in the follow-up period (~5 years). What they don't tell you is how massively under-powered their study is (they only had 100 participants in this study) and the study was uncontrolled (no comparator group). When we want to show that a DMT works in progressive MS we take a large number of pwMS and randomise them to active treatment or placebo. The PPMS-ocrelizumab study randomised 732 subjects and the SPMS-siponimod study 1651 subjects; do we really expect 100 pwSPMS to answer the reverse question?
What we really need is a randomised double-blind study where we randomise pwSPMS on DMT to remain on their active treatment or to placebo and then we wait see what happens in terms of long-term outcomes. A non-blinded study like this is being planned in the US. The best we have is the MS-BASE data below using real-life data and matching of subjects at baseline (propensity scoring). This study included 485 DMT-stoppers and 854 DMT-stayers followed for at least 3-years. Unsurprisingly, time to confirmed disability progression was significantly shorter among DMT stoppers than stayers, implying that the stayers were still deriving benefit from their DMT. Some would argue that this study took all-comers and not just pwSPMS. I would counteract that argument that the progressive pathology that drives both SPMS, and PPMS, is there from the beginning of the disease and that our clinical definition of when SPMS begins is arbitrary.
Stopping DMTs in pwMS who have transitioned from the relapsing to the clinically-apparent SPMS phase is at present is non-evidence based and flies in the face of recent data showing that DMTs, in particular high-efficacy therapies, are still having an effect on protecting upper limb, and possibly bulbar (speech and swallowing), function in pwMS with more advanced disease. This is why I find it hard to stop DMTs in people who have SPMS.
Despite the lack of evidence to help us we have strict NHS guidance to stopping DMTs in pwSPMS. The latter is mainly driven by costs; the NHS is on its knees financially and any cost savings are welcomed. Another solution would be to ask the NIHR to fund a randomised DMT stopping trial to see if we can generate the much needed evidence to guide clinical practice?
|SAVE THE NHS MONEY!|
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: The benefits of immunomodulatory treatments in secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS) are unclear, calling into question their continuation. In the present observational study, we investigated the effect of treatment withdrawal on the clinical course of SPMS.
METHODS: We included 100 consecutive patients with SPMS who regularly attended our multiple sclerosis clinic. Inclusion criteria were (i) secondary progressive phenotype for at least 2 years, (ii) immunomodulatory treatment for at least 6 months and (iii) treatment stopped with no plans to switch to another. Clinical and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data before and after treatment discontinuation were assessed. Factors associated with relapses and/or MRI activity were identified.
RESULTS: Mean treatment duration was 60.4 ± 39.3 months, and mean follow-up duration after treatment withdrawal was 62.4 ± 38.4 months. The annualized relapse rate remained stable at 1 and 3 years after treatment withdrawal [0.09, 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.05-0.17 and 0.07, 95% CI, 0.05-0.11, respectively], relative to the 3 years prior to treatment withdrawal (0.12, 95% CI, 0.09-0.16). Sixteen patients experienced a relapse and 19 had a gadolinium-positive MRI scan without relapse during follow-up. A gadolinium-positive MRI scan within the previous 3 years before treatment withdrawal and Expanded Disability Status Scale score of <6 were positively associated with relapse and/or MRI activity after discontinuation (P = 0.0004 and P = 0.03, respectively).
CONCLUSION: In this retrospective study, including a limited number of patients with SPMS, the annualized relapse rate remained stable after treatment withdrawal, relative to before treatment withdrawal. Further prospective studies are needed to confirm this result and provide evidence-based guidelines for daily practice.
Kister et al. Discontinuing disease-modifying therapy in MS after a prolonged relapse-free period: a propensity score-matched study. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2016 Oct;87(10):1133-7.
BACKGROUND: Discontinuation of injectable disease-modifying therapy (DMT) for multiple sclerosis (MS) after a long period of relapse freedom is frequently considered, but data on post-cessation disease course are lacking.
OBJECTIVES: (1) To compare time to first relapse and disability progression among 'DMT stoppers' and propensity-score matched 'DMT stayers' in the MSBase Registry; (2) To identify predictors of time to first relapse and disability progression in DMT stoppers.
METHODS: Inclusion criteria for DMT stoppers were: age ≥18 years; no relapses for ≥5 years at DMT discontinuation; follow-up for ≥3 years after stopping DMT; not restarting DMT for ≥3 months after discontinuation. DMT stayers were required to have no relapses for ≥5 years at baseline, and were propensity-score matched to stoppers for age, sex, disability (Expanded Disability Status Score), disease duration and time on treatment. Relapse and disability progression events in matched stoppers and stayers were compared using a marginal Cox model. Predictors of first relapse and disability progression among DMT stoppers were investigated using a Cox proportional hazards model.
RESULTS: Time to first relapse among 485 DMT stoppers and 854 stayers was similar (adjusted HR, aHR=1.07, 95% CI 0.84 to 1.37; p=0.584), while time to confirmed disability progression was significantly shorter among DMT stoppers than stayers (aHR=1.47, 95% CI 1.18 to 1.84, p=0.001). The difference in hazards of progression was due mainly to patients who had not experienced disability progression in the prebaseline treatment period.
CONCLUSIONS: Patients with MS who discontinued injectable DMT after a long period of relapse freedom had a similar relapse rate as propensity score-matched patients who continued on DMT, but higher hazard for disability progression.