Early-Stage Multiple Sclerosis
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- Sorensen, P.S. Drugs (2004) 64: 2021. doi:10.2165/00003495-200464180-00002
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Converging evidence from recent years indicates that the current attitude to the use of immunomodulatory drugs in the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) may be too conservative. This evidence originates from studies of the pathophysiology and pathology of MS, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies and clinical trials. Several studies have shown that antigen spreading and propagation of self-recognition seem to occur during the clinical progression of MS. The immunopathology may change during the course of disease. Primary selective demyelination can be followed by a secondary oligodendrocyte loss and remyelination becomes less effective. MRI studies have shown that patients with clinically isolated syndromes, who at presentation have more than a few brain lesions on MRI, have a high risk of disease progression over a period of 5–10 years. The most direct evidence comes from two placebo-controlled trials of interferon-β in very early MS. A delay in time to conversion to clinically definite MS and a significant decrease in MRI activity support an early stage treatment strategy. Taken together, the evidence indicates that treatment with immunomodulatory therapy should be started at an early stage in patients with a high-risk profile for further disease activity, although this may result in over-treatment of a small number of patients. However, further prolonged studies are needed to investigate the long-term benefit of early-stage treatment in MS.