There has been a significant improvement in drugs that treat multiple sclerosis over the past few decades, improving patients’ quality of life and longevity. However, the treatment plans for older adults with MS often don’t consider the change in the medications now available to treat the condition.
The standard of care with multiple sclerosis is to discontinue the anti-inflammatory medications in patients in their 50s and 60s. Due to the lack of efficacy as patients age, clinicians cannot justify the significant risks of these medications, which commonly suppress the immune system.
However, new research published in Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders has found evidence that discontinuing medications in older adults may result in new disease worsening and progression. This study helps to clarify the best treatment in older MS patients.
The first author of the paper, Dejan Jakimovski, explains, “Our results raise important questions about the accepted practice of discontinuing medications once MS patients are in their 50s and 60s.”
“It’s generally accepted that these older patients won’t benefit with the currently available disease-modifying medications.”
This new research adds to mounting evidence that those conclusions were based on older medications. Clinical trials and medications have improved and may be a possible treatment option.
The study was conducted on 216 MS patients with an average age of 50 who had discontinued their medications and were monitored for an average of 4.6 years. Of the participants, 53 previously stable patients experienced worsening or progression of the disease after discontinuing their medication.
This research is in sharp contrast to older studies, which suggested that fewer than 10% of older multiple sclerosis patients will have new relapses and subsequent disease worsening or progression after discontinuing their medication.
As inflammation medications and therapies evolve, it is essential to continue research to find the best possible treatments and preventions for patients with all types of disease. There is currently a larger comparison trial ongoing, which researchers hope will provide greater insight and further guidelines for MS clinicians.