Results Summary

What was the research about?

Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a health problem that affects the central nervous system. It can cause problems with balance, muscle control, daily activities, and ability to function. Symptoms can change over time. Patients ages 55 and younger with MS often have relapses, where symptoms return after going away.

Disease modifying therapies, or DMTs, are medicines that help prevent or reduce relapses among patients with MS. But many older patients with MS don’t have relapses or have fewer relapses than younger patients. Questions remain about whether older patients with MS can safely stop taking DMTs.

In this study, the research team looked at whether older patients who stopped taking DMTs had a higher risk of new relapses than patients who kept taking them. The team also looked at whether older patients who stopped taking DMTs had a higher risk of new lesions that could be seen in magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, brain scans. Brain lesions are areas of damage or other changes from disease.

What were the results?

Based on the study findings, the research team couldn’t say that stopping DMTs wasn’t worse than continuing DMTs in this group of patients. After two years, 5 percent of patients who kept taking DMTs had a relapse or new brain lesion, compared with 12 percent of patients who stopped taking DMTs.

Patients who kept taking DMTs and patients who stopped taking DMTs didn’t differ in changes in their ability to function.

Who was in the study?

This study included 259 patients ages 55 and older with MS who were taking DMTs. Patients hadn’t had relapses for at least five years or new brain lesions for at least three years. Of these patients, 89 percent were White, 9 percent were Black, and 1 percent were another race; 1 percent were Hispanic. The average age was 63, and 83 percent were women. All were receiving care at one of 19 health systems in the United States.

What did the research team do?

The research team assigned patients by chance to stop or keep taking their DMT. At the start of the study and after 6, 12, and 24 months, patients had MRI scans to see if they had new or changing brain lesions. Patients also had doctor’s visits and completed surveys about their symptoms at the start of the study and every six months.

Patients with MS, clinicians, patient advocates, and representatives from pharmaceutical companies gave input throughout the study.

What were the limits of the study?

The study included older patients with no recent relapses or brain lesions and a moderate ability to function. Results may differ for other patients. The research team didn’t have data for the full two years of the study for about one-third of patients. Results may have differed if the team had complete data.

Future research could include longer studies with patients with less ability to function.

How can people use the results?

Older patients with MS and their doctors can use the results when considering stopping or staying on DMTs.

Final Research Report

This project's final research report is expected to be available by July 2024.

Stories and Videos

Media Mentions

 Watch the video interview

Can Aging MS Patients Stop Taking Disease-Modifying Therapies?
In a video interview with MedPage Today, study Principal Investigator John Corboy, MD, discusses new results from the study that were presented at the 2022 Annual Meeting of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers. (Laub, MedPage Today, July 5, 2022)

Peer-Review Summary

The Peer-Review Summary for this project will be posted here soon.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures

Project Information

John R. Corboy, MD
University of Colorado Denver
$6,115,558
Discontinuation of Disease Modifying Therapies (DMTs) in Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Key Dates

September 2015
March 2023
2015
2023

Study Registration Information

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Last updated: November 9, 2023