Long-term fingolimod treatment may lessen disability

Long-term treatment with fingolimod results in lesser disability in people with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (MS), a new study has found.

People treated with the drug for eight or more years had smaller increases in disability over the course of 10 years than those who used fingolimod for a shorter amount of time.

Longer use of the treatment saw fewer people transitioning to secondary progressive MS, a reduced reliance on walking aids, and lesser disability progression over the 10 years.

Published in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal – Experimental, Translational and Clinical, the study saw a research team at the University Hospital Basel and the University of Basel, Switzerland, examine 10-year follow-up data on 175 people who were enrolled on a phase 2 trial of Gilenya (fingolimod’s branded name) by Novartis, the company that developed the drug, and which also funded the follow-up study.

People were divided into low-exposure and high-exposure groups. Those in the high exposure group were treated with Gilenya for an average of almost 11 years, and the low exposure group received the drug for an average of 3.3 years.

Across all the study’s participants, disability scores, measured with the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) rose by 0.83 points from the start of the study to 10 years ahead. For those in the high exposure group, the rise was much lower – a mean average of 0.58 points, compared with those in the low exposure group, which experienced a mean average rise of 1.17 points. Over the 10 years, 34.7 per cent of people in the high exposure group had disability progression, compared with 56.1 per cent in the low exposure group.

Gilenya works by preventing immune cells from leaving lymph nodes and invading the central nervous system. It was first approved in 2010.