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Pediatric MS often goes untreated in the year after diagnosis



About 65% of patients with pediatric multiple sclerosis (MS) do not receive disease-modifying therapy (DMT) within 1 year of diagnosis, according to an analysis of insurance claims data. Females may be more likely than males to receive DMT during this time, said Chinmay Deshpande, PhD, at the annual meeting of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers.

Pediatric onset of MS occurs in 3-5% of patients with the disease, and the median age of pediatric onset is 15 years. This population tends to have a high relapse rate and may develop disability at a younger age, said Dr. Deshpande, associate director of health economics and outcomes research at Novartis. “There have been very few studies done on this population, especially in the clinical trial setting. ... Physicians face considerable uncertainty in how to treat these patients.”

Observational data

To assess the proportion of patients with pediatric MS who receive DMT in the year after diagnosis, Dr. Deshpande and colleagues analyzed retrospective observational data from the Truven Health Marketscan Commercial and Encounters administrative claims databases. They studied patients who received an MS diagnosis between Jan. 1, 2010, and Dec. 31, 2016. In addition, they examined which DMTs were used as first-line therapies, whether prescribing patterns changed between 2010 and 2017, and time to treatment discontinuation or switch.

The databases included data from more than 182,000 patients with two or more claims of MS diagnosis. After including only patients age 17 years or younger at the index diagnosis date who had insurance during the 6 months prior to the index date and 12 months after the index date and who did not use DMT during the 6 months prior to the index date, 288 patients remained in the analysis. Patients had an average age of about 14 years.

The primary outcome was the proportion of patients who started DMT in the year after MS diagnosis. “The proportion of untreated patients within their first year of diagnosis was around 65%,” said Dr. Deshpande. On average, treated patients were slightly older than untreated patients (15.0 years vs. 13.3 years). Among treated patients, 75% were female, and 25% were male. Overall, however, 61% were female and 39% were male. The difference in treatment by gender was surprising and the reason for it is not understood, Dr. Deshpande said. One possibility is that the difference relates to earlier maturation in females, but that is only a hypothesis, he said.

Glatiramer acetate and interferon beta-1a were first-line DMTs for 48% and 30.6% of the treated patients, respectively. Dimethyl fumarate (7.1%), natalizumab (5.1%), fingolimod (4.1%), interferon beta-1b (4.1%), and peginterferon beta-1a (1%) also were used as first-line therapy.

Twenty percent of patients who received DMT switched to another medication during the follow-up period. The median time of switching was within 6 months of starting first-line therapy. Most patients who discontinued DMT – that is, they did not have any DMT for 60 days after stopping their first DMT – did so within 10 months of diagnosis.

Use of newer medications

Overall, the use of glatiramer acetate and interferons has decreased over time, and while the use of newer DMTs has increased, the trend is not consistent. “With the growing uptake of newer oral and infusible DMTs over the recent years, there is a need to increase treatment awareness in the pediatric MS population and to inform currently approved treatment options to the prescribers,” Dr. Deshpande and colleagues said.

The claims database is generalizable and nationally representative, but it does not include clinical or MRI data. “It’s hard to understand the reasoning why they discontinued or why they are switching,” Dr. Deshpande said. In addition, the sample size was relatively small, and the results should be interpreted accordingly, he said.

Novartis funded the study, and Dr. Deshpande and a coauthor are employees of Novartis. Other coauthors reported consulting fees from Novartis, as well as consulting fees and grant funding from other pharmaceutical companies.

SOURCE: Greenberg B et al. CMSC 2019, Abstract DXM02.

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