SEATTLE – Patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) who stopped taking their disease-modifying therapy (DMT) for more than 60 days had significantly higher rates of relapse, hospitalization, emergency department visits and outpatient visits, a new study finds. Their nonmedication health care costs were higher, too.
“This information will help to inform patients about downstream economic risks of being off therapy. This may also help to inform payers of the importance of making DMTs easily and quickly available to patients with MS to prevent greater costs of health care resource utilization down the road,” study lead author, a clinical neuroimmunologist at OhioHealth Multiple Sclerosis Center, said in an interview. She spoke prior to the presentation of the findings at the annual meeting of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers.
Dr. Nicholas and her colleagues launched their study to better understand the economic and medical impacts of lapses in oral DMT.
The researchers used a claims database to track 8,779 patients with MS during 2011-2015 who had at least one claim for an oral DMT drug. The subjects were aged 18-63; 15% had a drug lapse of more than 60 days. After propensity matching, the subjects in both groups – 60-day lapse or not – had a mean age of 44 years.
An analysis found that “lapses in oral DMT use led to increased relapses, increased health care utilization, and higher costs incurred by individuals with MS,” Dr. Nicholas said.
Over an 18-month follow-up period, those with drug lapses of more than 60 days had 28% more relapses than did the other subjects (mean 1.2 vs. 0.8; P less than .0001).
Those with lapses greater than 60 days also had 40% more hospitalizations (0.2 vs. 0.1; P = .0003), 25% more emergency department visits (0.6 vs. 0.5; P = .0098), and 22% more outpatient visits (6.2 vs. 4.8; P less than .0001).
Nonmedication costs were 25% higher among patients with a greater than 60-day lapse ($16,012 vs. $12,092; P = .0006).
Moving forward, the researchers wrote, “more research is needed to better understand the reasons for lapses in therapy and the impact of lapse timing and lapse duration on outcomes in patients with MS receiving once- or twice-daily oral [disease-modifying drugs].”
The researchers noted that they don’t have information about the reasons why patients lapsed. They added that the information comes mainly from commercial insurers.
EMD Serono, a division of Merck KGaA, provided funding for the study. Dr. Nicholas disclosed grant support from EMD Serono, and two other study authors are employees of the company. Another two authors worked for a consulting firm that received funding from EMD Serono to conduct the study.