Meeting the changing unmet needs of multiple sclerosis

Moving from preventing relapse to reducing disability

Categories: For Healthcare Professionals, [Multiple Sclerosis, Drug development]

Multiple sclerosis (MS) has an estimated global prevalence of 2.5 million cases. While MS can affect individuals of any age, it is mostly diagnosed in people 20 to 40 years of age, during the most productive years of their lives. People with MS experience high levels of disability, including poor mobility and dependence on family members, which can pose a major obstacle in daily life and have a substantial economic impact. This makes reducing disability an important unmet treatment need of MS.

Current medications help to modify the disease course of relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) by reducing the frequency of relapses and delaying disease progression, treating relapses, and reducing symptoms. 

The array of medicines used for MS treatment has a positive impact on patients’ quality of life, but these medicines are associated with numerous side effects, which can lead to poor adherence to treatment. Despite the overall progress made in drug development, currently available disease-modifying therapies are only slightly or moderately effective in preventing progression to disability, and up to half of all treated patients have no improvement in mobility, the most common physical impairment of MS. This can impact employment, with almost 80% of adults with MS no longer employed 5 years post-diagnosis, most often due to MS-related disability. Thus, the focus of global medical research has moved from preventing relapse to exploring investigational drugs designed to reduce disability. 

The first drug approval in this respect was a monoclonal antibody, ocrelizumab, which was effective in reducing worsening of disability in both RRMS and primary progressive MS (PPMS) in a total of 3 controlled clinical trials. The most common adverse events reported were upper respiratory tract infections and infusion reactions. In March 2017, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted ocrelizumab marketing authorization for treating patients with relapsing forms of MS and PPMS. A European marketing authorization was granted by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in January 2018. 

Ongoing and future clinical trials are expected to further facilitate the shift from preventing the occurrence of relapses to reducing disability, providing neuroprotection, or even finding a cure. Moreover, to help address the current unmet needs, researchers are investigating some areas that could support the management of MS, including identifying specific biomarkers for diagnosis and progression, discovering new tools for diagnosis, and developing new tests for assessing functional impairment.

You can contribute to MS clinical research now and in the future by keeping abreast of clinical developments and referring your patients to take part in IQVIA-managed clinical trials on contains updates on clinical trials and recent medical advances. You can register to receive news about multiple sclerosis and related IQVIA clinical trials or find trials that might interest your patients. Also, see Referring your patients into clinical trials to read about why and how you should refer patients.


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