Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Guest Post MSBaseGold: Comparisons of DMT

Today we are delighted to have another Guest post from Tomas Kalincik from University of Melbourne, Australia, please see his Biography on his previous post.

Kalincik et al. Treatment effectiveness of alemtuzumab compared with natalizumab, fingolimod, and interferon beta in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis: a cohort study. Lancet Neurol. 2017 Feb 10. pii: S1474-4422(17)30007-8.

BACKGROUND: Alemtuzumab, an anti-CD52 antibody, is proven to be more efficacious than interferon beta-1a in the treatment of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, but its efficacy relative to more potent immunotherapies is unknown. We compared the effectiveness of alemtuzumab with natalizumab, fingolimod, and interferon beta in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis treated for up to 5 years.


METHODS: In this international cohort study, we used data from propensity-matched patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis from the MSBase and six other cohorts. Longitudinal clinical data were obtained from 71 MSBase centres in 21 countries and from six non-MSBase centres in the UK and Germany between Nov 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016. Key inclusion criteria were a diagnosis of definite relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, exposure to one of the study therapies (alemtuzumab, interferon beta, fingolimod, or natalizumab), age 65 years or younger, Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) score 6·5 or lower, and no more than 10 years since the first multiple sclerosis symptom. The primary endpoint was annualised relapse rate. The secondary endpoints were cumulative hazards of relapses, disability accumulation, and disability improvement events. We compared relapse rates with negative binomial models, and estimated cumulative hazards with conditional proportional hazards models.


FINDINGS: Patients were treated between Aug 1, 1994, and June 30, 2016. The cohorts consisted of 189 patients given alemtuzumab, 2155 patients given interferon beta, 828 patients given fingolimod, and 1160 patients given natalizumab. Alemtuzumab was associated with a lower annualised relapse rate than interferon beta (0·19 [95% CI 0·14-0·23] vs 0·53 [0·46-0·61], p<0·0001) and fingolimod (0·15 [0·10-0·20] vs 0·34 [0·26-0·41], p<0·0001), and was associated with a similar annualised relapse rate as natalizumab (0·20 [0·14-0·26] vs 0·19 [0·15-0·23], p=0·78). For the disability outcomes, alemtuzumab was associated with similar probabilities of disability accumulation as interferon beta (hazard ratio [HR] 0·66 [95% CI 0·36-1·22], p=0·37), fingolimod (1·27 [0·60-2·70], p=0·67), and natalizumab (0·81 [0·47-1·39], p=0·60). Alemtuzumab was associated with similar probabilities of disability improvement as interferon beta (0·98 [0·65-1·49], p=0·93) and fingolimod (0·50 [0·25-1·01], p=0·18), and a lower probability of disability improvement than natalizumab (0·35 [0·20-0·59], p=0·0006).


INTERPRETATION: Alemtuzumab and natalizumab seem to have similar effects on annualised relapse rates in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. Alemtuzumab seems superior to fingolimod and interferon beta in mitigating relapse activity. Natalizumab seems superior to alemtuzumab in enabling recovery from disability. Both natalizumab and alemtuzumab seem highly effective and viable immunotherapies for multiple sclerosis. Treatment decisions between alemtuzumab and natalizumab should be primarily governed by their safety profiles.


FUNDING: National Health and Medical Research Council, and the University of Melbourne.



Tomas Kalincik

"This large collaborative study brought together investigators from MSBase and clinicians from six academic MS centres in Cambridge, Cardiff, Swansea, Bristol, Dublin and Dresden. We have used propensity score matching, pairwise censoring and weighting in order to create a composite cohort of sufficient size to enable conclusive comparisons of alemtuzumab (a monoclonal antibody depleting circulating B and T lymphocytes, which was approved in multiple countries for use in relapsing-remitting MS in 2015) and three other commonly used therapies - interferon beta, fingolimod and natalizumab.

The comparison of alemtuzumab with interferon beta allowed us to replicate the results of the pivotal phase 3 trials of alemtuzumab (CARE-MS 1 and CARE-MS 2), anchoring our study in the existing evidence. It showed that the effect of alemtuzumab on suppressing relapses was superior to that of interferon beta. In patients with previously highly active disease, alemtuzumab was also more likely to prevent worsening of disability and even lead to some disability reversal. We have used this replication of the previous studies as a validation of our methodology before applying it to a new scenario - the comparison with fingolimod and natalizumab.

Alemtuzumab was superior to fingolimod in decreasing relapse incidence. However, its effect on disability (whether disability accrual or its resolution) was similar to that of fingolimod. On the other hand, alemtuzumab and natalizumab had very similar effects on suppressing MS relapses and worsening of disability. However, natalizumab was more often associated with improvement in disability early after patients commenced therapy. This difference in treatment effect was mostly seen during the first year of treatment.

Our study focused on comparing clinical efficacy of alemtuzumab and the three therapies. It did not compare the effect of the therapies on brain MRI, neither did it answer the question of its relative treatment safety."


CoITK reports grants from National Health and Medical Research Council (Australia), and Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, University of Melbourne; grants, personal fees, and non-financial support from Biogen; personal fees from Roche, Teva, and BioCSL; and personal fees and non-financial support from Sanofi Genzyme, Merck, Novartis; and personal fees from WebMD Global.

MouseDoctor says:

As we are looking at MS drugs in the Real World today, we would like to thank Tomas for discussing his recent work. If you can spare a minute and can understand Australian:-). 

You can have a view of  Dr.Kalincik in the News (Click here)


Drug companies generally only do head to head studies when they know their product will win. Therefore it is great that registries exist, to allow comparisons of effects to be undertaken. This study confirms what we suspect in terms of drug hierarchies. 

Real world data on efficacy or #alternativefact

Neurol Ther. 2017 Feb 16. doi: 10.1007/s40120-017-0064-x. [Epub ahead of print]

Comparative Effectiveness Research of Disease-Modifying Therapies for the Management of Multiple Sclerosis: Analysis of a Large Health Insurance Claims Database.


Boster A, Nicholas J, Wu N, Yeh WS, Fay M, Edwards M, Huang MY, Lee A.

Abstract

INTRODUCTION:

Limited data are available on the real-world effectiveness of newer oral disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) in multiple sclerosis. The purpose of this study was to retrospectively compare the real-world effectiveness of dimethyl fumarate (DMF), fingolimod, teriflunomide, and injectable DMTs in routine clinical practice based on US claims data.

METHODS:

Patients newly-initiating DMF, interferon beta (IFNβ), glatiramer acetate (GA), teriflunomide, or fingolimod in 2013 were identified in the Truven MarketScan Commercial Claims Databases (N = 6372). Relapse episodes were identified based on a published claim-based algorithm and used to determine the annualized relapse rate (ARR) for the year before and after initiating therapy. Poisson and negative binomial regression was used to determine the adjusted incidence rate ratio (IRR) for each therapy relative to DMF.

RESULTS:

Significant ARR reductions in the year after initiating therapy were reported for DMF and fingolimod (P < 0.0001). Compared with DMF, the adjusted IRR (95% CI) for relapse in the year after initiating therapy was 1.27 (1.10-1.46) for IFNβ, 1.34 (1.17-1.53) for GA, 1.23 (1.05-1.45) for teriflunomide, and 1.03 (0.88-1.21) for fingolimod. Results were consistent across subgroup and sensitivity analyses.

CONCLUSION:

These real-world data suggest DMF and fingolimod have similar effectiveness and demonstrate superior effectiveness to IFNβ, GA, and teriflunomide.

FUNDING:

Biogen, Cambridge, MA, USA.

In the way that social media has changed the face of news distribution once and for all, open access journals are steadfastly changing the face of science - for better or worse is a matter open to debate. Their 'free at point of access' policy means that their readership naturally increases with time compared to traditional paid journals. Open access journals may therefore become the modern-day equivalent of the unwitting accomplice for here-sayers and nay-sayers.

In MS therapeutics, as we have no head to head studies against the different disease-modifying therapies in MS, we are left with retrospective analysis of recorded data. In the case of the US, this would be the 'Commercial claims' insurance databases. Boster et al. (in a study funded by Biogen) claim that DMF (tecfidera) has similar effectiveness to fingolimod, but is SUPERIOR to the other first-line therapies (alemtuzumab and natalizumab were not included) (see Figure below). They justifiably point out that this can be explained by the non-compliance to therapy on injectables, but even controlling for this it would appear that DMF still comes out on top. The accuracy of data keeping and truthfulness of accounts is barely just touched upon.

The market size of DMF is sizable and that is food for thought. The fact that I have posted on this today will increase the altametrics of this article (Multiple Sclerosis BlogSpot averages on ~5000 page views/day). The alternative oral drug, Novartis's fingolimod (gilenya) is it's main competitor.

The authors conclude: "These data should assist in treatment decisions regarding the choice of DMT and enable clinicians to consider both real-world effectiveness and route of administration in consultations with their patients". In an attempt to be equally provocative I might add that biosimilars demonstrating equivalent efficacy are the poor man's alternative! It would be therefore reasonable to assume that in the current day #alternativefact, that almost nobody is flush with aces.

Figure: Unadjusted annualized relapse rates for 1 year before and 1 year after DMT initiation. DMT disease-modifying therapy

Monday, 20 February 2017

#OffLabel & #ClinicSpeak: nabilone instead of street cannabis

Off label Nabilone is a treatment option for MS-related spasticity #OffLabel #ClinicSpeak #MSBlog

I grew up in apartheid South Africa and recall the sweet smell of 'dagga' (SA street lingo for cannabis), that wafted from the workers, or gardeners, quarters at my primary school. The workers, who were all black at that time, generally used cannabis in large amounts to survive the drudgery of their apartheid existence. They were all migrant workers with families who tragically lived far away. They barely survived on a minimum wage, doing menial unskilled labour. Their bloodshot eyes, clouded awareness and sweet bodily aroma made me aware  at a very young age, that the torpor due to their excessive cannabis use could not be good for either their physical or mental health. Apartheid has many wrongs to answer for; the mental and physical health of the majority comes close to the top of the list.  

It would be decades later as a MS researcher that I would discover, from the MouseDoctors, that cannabis could have real benefits for pwMS. Our research led to the development of THC as a symptomatic treatment for pwMS and should also have led to the development of THC as an add-on neuroprotective drug for people with more advanced MS. Unfortunately, the phase 2 neuroprotective trial we were involved in was done at a time when we did not have the insights we now have about the EDSS (not fit for purpose), asynchronous progressive MS, nor that MS is a length-dependent axonopathy. I am confident that if we had the opportunity to do a trial of THC as an add-on neuroprotective agent in more advanced MS we would design the trial very differently and have more than a fighting chance of getting a positive result. 



Although we do have a licensed cannabinoid for the treatment of MS-related spasticity we can't prescribe it under the NHS. Sativex, which contains the active ingredients of cannabis (THC and CBD), cannot be prescribed as it has not been 'NICEd'. Sativex has not bee shown to be cost-effective. This is very frustrating as so many of our patients would benefit from this drug. This very unfortunate situation forces many pwMS in the UK to buy street cannabis. As a neurologist I can't sanction this; cannabis is illegal in the UK and I would be putting myself at risk if I prescribed, or even recommended, street cannabis. I am aware that in other parts of the world, where cannabis has been legalised for medicinal use, neurologists can prescribe cannabis. 

How to get around this problem in the UK? I have recently started prescribing nabilone, a licensed small molecule drug that works on the CB1 receptor. CB1 is the cannabinoid receptor responsible for THC's anti-spastic effects. Nabilone is licensed in the UK for the control of nausea and vomiting, caused by chemotherapeutic agents and used in the treatment of cancer. I have recently had two patients who were using excessive street cannabis to control their spasticity and nocturnal leg spasms. Nabilone at a dose of 2 mg twice of day has allowed both these patients to stop smoking street cannabis and both have noted improved control of their spasticity. On the plus side both these patients have stopped smoking cannabis, which in itself has health benefits in that they are not exposing their lungs to smoke. 

Please be aware that the use of off-label nabilone is not ideal and in a perfect world we would have unfettered access to Sativex. What is galling is that Sativex was developed, and made, in the UK by a small start-up Pharma company. If the NHS does not support its own, UK-based, Pharma industry what hope is there for Pharma UK? This is in distinct contrast to France and Germany, where the politicians go out of their way to make sure their national healthcare systems support their own, home-grown, Pharma Companies. Is this nepotism? Is this the reason Trumpster's want to the UK to shutdown NICE?  

Please note that some patients are prescribed Sativex in the UK under the IFR (individual funding request) system, via patient access schemes paid for by individual NHS Trust's and not NHS England, or via the private prescription route. 

CoI: multiple

Sunday, 19 February 2017

The SPMS trial that never was.

Double-Blind Controlled Randomized Trial of Cyclophosphamide versus Methylprednisolone in Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis.Brochet B, Deloire MS, Perez P, Loock T, Baschet L, Debouverie M, Pittion S, Ouallet JC, Clavelou P, de Sèze J, Collongues N, Vermersch P, Zéphir H, Castelnovo G, Labauge P, Lebrun C, Cohen M, Ruet A; PROMESS study investigators..
PLoS One. 2017 Jan 3;12(1):e0168834. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0168834.

BACKGROUND:Therapeutic options are limited in secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS). Open-label studies suggested efficacy of monthly IV cyclophosphamide (CPM) without induction for delaying progression but no randomized trial was conducted so far.
OBJECTIVE:To compare CPM to methylprednisolone (MP) in SPMS.
METHODS:Randomized, double-blind clinical trial on two parallel groups. Patient with SPMS, with a documented worsening of the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) score during the last year and an EDSS score between 4·0 and 6·5 were recruited and received one intravenous infusion of treatment (CPM: 750 mg /m2 body surface area-MP: 1g) every four weeks for one year, and every eight weeks for the second year. The primary endpoint was the time to EDSS deterioration, when confirmed sixteen weeks later, analyzed using a Cox model.
RESULTS:Due to recruitment difficulties, the study was terminated prematurely after 138 patients were included (CPM, n = 72; MP, n = 66). In the CPM group, 33 patients stopped treatment prematurely, mainly due to tolerability, compared with 22 in the MP group. Primary endpoint: the hazard ratio for EDSS deterioration in the CPM in comparison with the MP group was 0.61 [95% CI: 0·31-1·22](p = 0·16). According to the secondary multistate model analysis, patients in the CPM group were 2.2 times more likely ([1·14-4.29]; p = 0.02) to discontinue treatment than those in the MP group and 2.7 times less likely (HR = 0.37, 95% CI: 0.17-0.84; p = 0.02) to experience disability progression when they did not stop treatment prematurely. Safety profile was as expected.
CONCLUSION:Although the primary end-point was negative, secondary analysis suggested that CPM decreases the risk of progression in SPMS, but its use may be limited by low tolerability.
TRIAL REGISTRATION:Clinicaltrials.gov NCT00241254.

So more not good news for SPMS, here is another trial that has failed. Cyclophophamide forms an metabolite that is active and entrers the CNS and can kill B cells as well as any other cell that is dividing including hairs in the follicles. There was a hint of activity but the trial was terminated because there were not enough volunteers.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

#ResearchSpeak: when best practice clinical guidelines our out of date

Is your neurologist a sheep or a wolf, a herder or an independent thinker? #ResearchSpeak #MSBlog

The following study looks at decision-making by neurologists in relation to a simple case scenario. The researchers come to the conclusion that neurologists display herd behaviour, i.e. they follow the crowd rather deciding independently. The study is based on a simple case scenario of a 40-year-old woman with MS who has been stable for 3 years on subcutaneous interferon and developed a self-limited neurological event. I assume this was a relapse. There were no new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) lesions. Her neurological examination and disability scores were unchanged. She was advised by her MS neurologist to switch from interferon to fingolimod against best practice guidelines

What this scenario doesn't explore is that we all know the EDSS is not fit for purpose and the fact that it was unchanged is neither here nor there. You can still have a relapse despite an unchanged EDSS. Similarly, the there were no new lesions on the MRI. The scenario doesn't mention whether or not a spinal cord MRI was done. May her relapse due to a spinal cord lesion. The researchers assume that if the MRI shows no new lesions then this person has not had a relapse. A significant number of relapses occur without new MRI lesions. The MRI only detects lesions that are ~4mm in size or larger. A small lesion in a critical area can cause a relapse without being detected on MRI.  They also assume that the MRI and EDSS are the disease, when in fact they are not the disease. The disease is biological and hence needs to be thought of as a biological process. They also assume the 'best practice clinical guidelines' are set in stone and to be obeyed at all costs and are current and up-to-date.  Most guidelines take so long to produce and get consensus that when the come out they are usually out-of-date. Guidelines are usually reached by consensus and hence are typically behind the adoption curve and not at the vanguard of new treatment paradigms.  

I assume that the neurologist who read this scenario interpreted the 'self-limited neurological event' as a relapse and advised the patient be switched to a more effective treatment. Unless these investigators can provide evidence that this was not a relapse how can the expect the neurologists they surveyed not to switch treatments? In an era of treat-2-target of NEDA it is clear that the 'best practice clinical guidelines' our out of date. In my opinion this study shows that the neurologists who applied the 'best practice clinical guidelines' were the herders, blindly following guidelines and the ones that elected to switch treatment were the independent thinkers, acting in their patient's best interests. My conclusion on reading this paper is the exact opposite to the researchers' conclusions. 

What do you think? 


Saposnik et al. Herding: a new phenomenon affecting medical decision-making in multiple sclerosis care? Lessons learned from DIScUTIR MS. Patient Prefer Adherence. 2017 Jan 31;11:175-180. doi: 10.2147/PPA.S124192. eCollection 2017.

PURPOSE: Herding is a phenomenon by which individuals follow the behavior of others rather than deciding independently on the basis of their own private information. A herding-like phenomenon can occur in multiple sclerosis (MS) when a neurologist follows a therapeutic recommendation by a colleague even though it is not supported by best practice clinical guidelines. Limited information is currently available on the role of herding in medical care. The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence (and its associated factors) of herding in the management of MS.


METHODS: We conducted a study among neurologists with expertise in MS care throughout Spain. Participants answered questions regarding the management of 20 case scenarios commonly encountered in clinical practice and completed 3 surveys and 4 experimental paradigms based on behavioral economics. The herding experiment consisted of a case scenario of a 40-year-old woman who has been stable for 3 years on subcutaneous interferon and developed a self-limited neurological event. There were no new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) lesions. Her neurological examination and disability scores were unchanged. She was advised by an MS neurologist to switch from interferon to fingolimod against best practice guidelines. Multivariable logistic regression analysis was conducted to evaluate factors associated with herding.

RESULTS: Out of 161 neurologists who were invited to participate, 96 completed the study (response rate: 60%). Herding was present in 75 (78.1%), having a similar prevalence in MS experts and general neurologists (68.8% vs 82.8%; P=0.12). In multivariate analyses, the number of MS patients seen per week was positively associated with herding (odds ratio [OR] 1.08, 95% CI 1.01-1.14). Conversely, physician's age, gender, years of practice, setting of practice, or risk preferences were not associated with herding.

CONCLUSION: Herding was a common phenomenon affecting nearly 8 out of 10 neurologists caring for MS patients. Herding may affect medical decisions and lead to poorer outcomes in the management of MS.

CoI: multiple