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Early MS Relapses Linked to Short-Term Risk of Progression

Study finds longer-term impact on progression likely minimal for early or late relapses

THURSDAY, Nov. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Early relapses of multiple sclerosis (MS) pose more short-term risk of disease progression than long-term consequences, according to a Canadian retrospective review published online Nov. 4 in Neurology.

Helen Tremlett, Ph.D., of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and colleagues analyzed data from 2,477 patients with relapsing-onset MS who were followed for a mean of 20.6 years. Outcomes assessed included the time until patients required a cane and time to developing secondary progressive MS.

The researchers showed that relapses within five years of MS onset were associated with a higher risk of disease progression over the short term (hazard ratios for cane and secondary progressive MS, 1.48 and 1.29, respectively). However, the link between relapses and disease progression generally decreased with time and became insignificant over longer follow-up. The effect of relapses from five to 10 years also decreased with time.

"Although the long-term relationship between relapses and disability progression is still incompletely understood, relapses are important. We concur with Tremlett et al that more work is needed, especially regarding long-term outcomes," write the authors of an accompanying editorial.

Several authors of the article and editorial reported financial and consulting relationships with MS organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and medical journals.

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