Multiple sclerosis (MS) patients who began treatment with Gilenya (fingolimod) and stayed with it continuously showed a more than 50 percent reduction in annual relapse rates, a real-world study following these people for up to three years found.
Results were reported in the study “Real-world durability of relapse rate reduction in patients with multiple sclerosis receiving fingolimod for up to 3 years: a retrospective US claims database analysis,” published in the Journal of the Neurological Sciences.
Gilenya, marketed by Novartis, is an oral disease-modifying treatment for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS), approved in 2010. It acts by binding and modulating receptors — called sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor — on lymphocytes (adaptive immune cells).
By binding to these receptors, Gilenya prevents lymphocytes from leaving the lymph nodes and reaching the brain and spinal cord, and so lower lymphocyte-induced inflammation and damage.
Although several clinical trials have reported reduced annualized relapse rates (ARRs) upon treatment with Gilenya, few long-term real-life studies have examined the relapse rate reductions over a long term.
A team, led by Novartis researchers and a scientist at Central Texas Neurology Consultants, collected MS patient data from the MarketScan database, a U.S. claims database including medical and pharmacy claims (bills submitted to health insurance providers), between 2009 and 2016.
Among 9,312 MS patients in the database with at least one filled Gilenya prescription, 1,599 adults (mean age, 46) met the study’s inclusion criteria, including having at least one inpatient or two outpatient claims, and a total of four years of continuous health plan enrollment.
Among these 1,599 patients, all used Gilenya for one year (cohort 1), 1,158 (72.4%) took Gilenya continuously up to the start of year two (cohort 2), and 937 (58.6%) used the therapy up to the start of year three (cohort 3).
Baseline analysis — measures taken at the study’s start — showed that the most common MS-linked symptoms were disorders of the optic nerve and visual pathways (reported in 22-24%), followed by fatigue/malaise (20-21%). Hypertension (20-21%) and depression (15-16%) were the most common physical and mental comorbidities, respectively.
The mean annualized relapse rates (AARs) at baseline in these three groups of patients — cohorts 1 to 3 — ranged between 0.48 and 0.51.
A consistent reduction in ARRs was seen in all three groups: cohort 1 had a 0.25 ARR at the close of the first year, for a 51% reduction from the baseline rate; cohort 2 a 0.22 ARR at the start of year two, for a 54% lowering in relapse rates from baseline; and cohort 3 had 0.23 ARR at the third year, amounting to a 53% reduction.
As expected, when researchers calculated ARRs among patients with continuous Gilenya use over these three years, they found a greater reduction in annual relapse rates. Mean ARRs in continuous-use patients were 0.19 (a 61% reduction) during the first year, 0.18 (a 62% reduction) during the second year, and 0.18 (a 61% reduction) at the start of the third year.
“This retrospective claims database study found that patients with MS who received fingolimod [Gilenya] therapy experienced a durable and sustained reduction in relapse rates over a 3-year period,” the researchers wrote, with findings representing “a durable reduction in relapse rates by [more than] 50%.”
Reasons that some patients discontinued treatment were not a focus of this study, they added.