Randomized controlled trials have demonstrated the efficacy of disease-modifying drugs (DMDs) in persons with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) and secondary progressive MS with superimposed relapses. However, these brief studies of selected patients have focused mainly on reducing attacks and must be complemented by evaluations in 'realworld' clinical settings to establish the effectiveness of DMD programs in slowing disease progression and to inform health policy and program decision-making. We assessed the effectiveness of DMDs as administered in a comprehensive publicly funded drug insurance program that provides DMDs to a geographically defined population of MS patients who meet specific eligibility criteria. Data from 1752 MS patients (10,312 assessments) seen between 1980 and 2004 at a regional MS Clinic serving the entire population of Nova Scotia, Canada were analysed. Using survival methods we observed a statistically significant reduction in disease progression to specific Expanded Disability Status Scale endpoints following the introduction of this program. Subgroup analyses of patients eligible for treatment using hierarchical linear regression methods also suggested that disease progression was slowed in patients treated with the first DMD prescribed. These findings provide evidence supporting DMD program effectiveness that can be used to inform the broader implementation of such programs.
Comment In: Mult Scler. 2009 Nov;15(11):1251-219965557