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Early Use of Interferon Beneficial in Multiple Sclerosis

Using interferon beta-1b may prevent disability if treatment starts early

FRIDAY, Aug. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Initiating the use of interferon beta-1b soon after a suspected diagnosis of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis can help prevent progression to clinically definite multiple sclerosis as well as disability, according to research published in the Aug. 4 issue of The Lancet.

Ludwig Kappos, M.D., of the University Hospital Petersgraben in Basel, Switzerland, and colleagues report on the three-year follow-up of the Betaferon/Betaseron in Newly Emerging Multiple Sclerosis for Initial Treatment (BENEFIT) study. Overall, 292 patients with a first multiple sclerosis event and at least two clinically silent lesions were randomized to receive 250 μg of interferon beta-1b while 176 were given placebo every other day for two years or until diagnosis of clinically definite multiple sclerosis.

This was followed by an open-label interferon beta-1b phase, which 418 (89 percent of the original group) entered and 392 (84 percent) completed through three years of follow-up.

Early initiation of interferon beta-1b reduced the risk of clinically definite multiple sclerosis by 41 percent; 85 patients (51 percent) in the delayed group progressed to this stage compared with 99 (37 percent) in the early treatment group. The risk of disability was reduced by 40 percent.

"Our data suggest that early initiation of treatment with interferon beta-1b prevents the development of confirmed disability, supporting its use after the first manifestation of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis," the authors conclude.

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