LOS ANGELES – A new clinical guideline for adults with multiple sclerosis is designed to help clinicians navigate an increasingly complex landscape of treatment options, its authors say.
The new American Academy of Neurology (AAN) guideline includes some 30 recommendations related to starting a disease-modifying therapy (DMT), switching therapies, or stopping treatment. The guideline, presented April 23 at the AAN annual meeting and published online simultaneously in, is the first full MS practice guideline issued by AAN since 2002, when only a handful of medications were licensed for use in MS.
The new guideline does not present a hierarchy of DMTs to start but instead weighs evidence for 21 medications or formulations, including 8 used off label, with the idea that clinicians will tailor their choices by considering patient needs, preferences, potential adverse affects, cost of medicines, comorbidities (including depression), and likelihood of adherence, among other factors addressed.
“It’s a dramatically different landscape of the choices clinicians have,” guideline lead author Alexander Rae-Grant, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic, said at a press conference announcing the guideline.
The guideline encourages clinicians and patients “to have a detailed discussion of the risks and benefits of different therapies,” guideline coauthor Ruth Ann Marrie, MD, PhD, of the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, said at the press conference. “You need to have that informed ... discussion to share decision making – the guideline provides information for each provider-patient dyad to make decisions specific to that patient.”
The guideline incorporates findings from nearly 50 randomized trials, although few of these were head-to-head comparisons of therapies. The authors graded evidence for each DMT as compared with placebo or other DMTs in lowering relapse rate, taking into consideration study design and size. The guideline reflects changes to diagnostic criteria made in 2010, and a classification scheme issued in 2014 for MS subtypes, both of which have complicated the extension of clinical trial findings to some patient groups. It stresses early treatment, recommending that clinicians start DMTs in people with a single clinical demyelinating event and two or more brain lesions characteristic of MS.
Several drugs used off label in MS, including azathioprine and cladribine, were included in the evidence review, with cladribine described as a cost-effective option for patients without the resources to obtain approved agents.