More MS news articles for Mar 2002

Once-Weekly Avonex Shows Better Patient Compliance Than Other MS Treatments

March 14, 2002
SOURCE: Biogen Inc

MISSISSAUGA, ON -- In a survey examining quality-of-life issues of patients with multiple sclerosis on treatment in 'real world' situations, those treated with once-a- week Avonex® were shown to be more than twice as compliant with their therapy as were patients on Betaseron®, Copaxone® or Rebif®.

Betaseron (interferon beta-1b), Copaxone (glatiramer acetate) or Rebif (interferon beta-1a) are taken more frequently than Avonex (interferon beta-1a) for treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS). In the survey, Avonex patients also reported better tolerability, including significantly fewer instances of injection site reactions and initial flu-like symptoms.

These findings follow a number of recent European clinical trials that demonstrate similar efficacy between these four MS therapies currently available in Canada.

"There has been an ongoing debate in the neurology community as to whether weekly or more frequent treatments are better from a clinical standpoint, but what is important to keep in mind is that no drug will work in the real world if patients fail to comply with their treatment regimen," says Dr. Suzanne Christie, Clinical Neurologist, Elizabeth Bruyere Health Centre in Ottawa.

"In my opinion, this study suggests that more treatments per week are not necessarily better. The higher tolerability of Avonex®, combined with once-a-week convenience, improves patient compliance, which is essential if patients are to obtain the full benefit of treatment."

Better Compliance, Tolerability

In particular, the survey determined that Avonex patients were much less likely to forget or deliberately skip an injection. In fact, only 18 percent of Avonex patients reported ever forgetting or deliberately skipping an injection versus 45 percent of patients treated with other MS drugs.

Avonex patients also reported better tolerability to their medication based on fewer injection site reactions and initial flu-like symptoms. Almost three times as many of these patients reported having never experienced injection site reactions like itchiness, pain or redness. Twenty-one percent of Avonex patients reported having regularly experienced injection site reactions such as these (average monthly total of 2.2), versus 67 percent of other patients (average monthly total of 12.83). Injection site reactions can be unsightly, causing embarrassment and self-consciousness to the point of interfering with daily activities like going to the beach or pool, wearing certain clothes or dating.

In addition, Avonex patients reported feeling initial flu-like symptoms much less frequently (3.65 times per month) than did patients on other interferon therapies (9.02). The frequency with which patients experience these symptoms has an impact on their ability to carry on with daily activities, such as going to work, or playing with children or grandchildren.

"I live with multiple sclerosis every day, and my goal is for the disease to affect my life as little as possible," said Brent Felstead, an electronics-engineering technologist and amateur bodybuilder in Kanata, Ontario, Canada. "When selecting a treatment, quality of life was very important in my decision - I wanted to be able to carry on with my family, work and bodybuilding activities, feeling well and looking good. With Avonex, because it's injected into the muscle, I don't get site reactions, which is important for my appearance in bodybuilding competitions. Further, I only experience tiredness for about a day after the injection, so I have the energy to keep up my family activities and continue to train effectively."

Clinical trials tell only part of the story

"A survey like this is important because it measures the effectiveness of MS drugs in the real world," says Robert Coambs, PhD, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. "Clinical trials give the medical community important information about treatment safety and efficacy, but they are generally artificial because patients are closely monitored. It is data gleaned from surveys like this that measure what patients actually do in the course of their daily lives. If a treatment is inconvenient, or the side effects unpleasant or intolerable, patients are less likely to take their medication properly, and end up with sub-optimal treatment."

Survey details

The survey, by Environics Research Group, was conducted among 253 multiple sclerosis patients by telephone between February 15 and March 4, 2002. One hundred Avonex patients and 153 patients taking Betaseron (38), Rebif (57) or Copaxone (58) were surveyed.

About multiple sclerosis

In Canada, about 50,000 people suffer from multiple sclerosis. MS is the most common neurological disease in young adults, and afflicts women twice as often as men. It is characterized in its early stages by inflammation and damage to myelin, the protective coating of the nerves. The loss of myelin disrupts the conduction of nerve impulses, producing the symptoms of MS, including vision problems, loss of balance, numbness, chronic pain, and difficulty walking, progressing to the point of serious disability. Treatment with agents like Avonex® are thought to decrease the autoimmune response, thereby preventing destruction of myelin, reducing the frequency of relapses and slowing progression of the disease and helping patients maintain their normal, active lives.

Avonex is the registered trademark of Biogen Inc., Betaseron is the registered trademark of Berlex Canada Inc., Copaxone is the registered trademark of Teva Neuroscience Inc., and Rebif is the registered trademark of Serono Canada Inc.

SOURCE: Biogen Inc

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