Following the positive outcomes of shorter studies done on Multiple Sclerosis (MS) drug Betaseron(R), continued testing also yields compelling results.

Analysis from a 16 year follow up study examining long term effects of Betaseron(R) on MS patients showed that early and continued treatment with Betaseron were more likely to avoid negative clinical outcomes than MS patients on alternative treatment options.

The study was presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s Annual Meeting and showed that early and sustained treatment reduced risk of onset and severe consequences of MS after 16 years.

"Our analyses showed the potential for long-term benefits of starting Betaseron treatment early and staying on therapy, even after accounting for known potential biases that may arise in the long-term follow-up observational studies," said Dr. Douglas Goodin, Director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at UCSF Medical Center, who performed these analyses and presented his findings. "More importantly, these findings show that among study patients who were treated for an equal length of time, the ones who started therapy earlier were more likely to avoid a negative clinical outcome over the long term."

Betaseron, produced by Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals Inc.,  has been shown to delay progression of MS and to reduce the number of clinical events of MS. Adapted from protein interferon beta 1b, occurring naturally in the body, Betaseron interferes with  immune system T-cells that attack the protective myelin of the nervous  system. Betaseron also prevents certain proteins in the body from triggering this autoimmune response.

Betaseron is currently approved by the FDA to reduce the number of MS related episodes in patients. Many people wait for MS treatment after a first clinical episode. As normalcy returns, the need for attention and treatment fades. But waiting for treatment may result in greater neuronal damage.  Study results show that not only do people who were treated with Betaseron directly after the first clinical manifestation of MS reduced their chances at another clinical episode by 37 percent, but they can keep symptoms from flaring up in the long term. Patients also benefit from a higher quality of life improved their cognitive functions.

"We are now continuing to follow these patients to the 20-year mark,” says Dr. Goodin.  “The data from this 20-year follow-up will provide us with more information regarding impact of treatment on disease progression."

Although it is important to note that Betaseron is not a treatment for MS, and eventual symptoms will show, its development is a critical step forward in the understanding and treatment of this chronic disease. Delaying onset and debilitating symptoms of MS for long term periods like 16 years, gives MS patients a little more flexibility and a chance at a higher quality life.


(1) DS Goodin, G Ebers, AT Reder, et al.  Early Treatment with Interferon Beta-1b is Associated with Improved Long-Term Outcome in Multiple Sclerosis. World Congress on Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis 2008.