Combining two multiple sclerosis treatments has no clinical benefit, study finds

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 14 March 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f1719
  1. Lilian Anekwe
  1. 1BMJ Evidence Centre

Combining glatiramer and interferon beta in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis does not reduce symptoms or disability over three years, when compared with either treatment alone, a study has found.

The study, which was funded by the US National Institutes of Health, looked at the effects of glatiramer, interferon beta, and the two drugs in combination in 1008 patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.

It found that the annual rate of relapse was no different in patients taking the combination treatment than in those taking the better of the two treatments, glatiramer (hazard ratio 1.1 (95% confidence interval 0.82 to 1.46)). And all patients showed similar progression of disease in terms of disability and function over the 36 months of the study.1 However, the combination and glatiramer alone were better than interferon alone in reducing the risk of relapse. When compared with interferon, glatiramer reduced the risk by 31%, while the combination reduced it by 25%.

Researchers also measured the amount of brain tissue damage that occurred over the course of the study, through magnetic resonance imaging. They found that people who took the combination of treatments had fewer new areas of damage and smaller areas of damage than those who took either glatiramer or interferon on their own. They plan an extension of the study to see whether these differences predict later clinical differences.


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f1719