The growing reliance on disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) to treat people with multiple sclerosis (MS) has led to fewer hospitalizations but not a drop in the number of physician visits, a population study of DMTs and their impact on healthcare use in Canada reports.
The study, “Association between disease-modifying therapies for multiple sclerosis and healthcare utilisation on a population level: a retrospective cohort study,” was published in the journal BMJ Neurology Open.
In the last two decades, many disease-modifying treatments — those that reduce the activity and progression of a disease — have become available for MS. How their use affects healthcare utilization by patients, however, is less known.
DMTs tend to be expensive, and some believe that their use imposes a considerable economic burden on both patients and insurance companies or governments. Others argue that DMTs are cost-effective in the long term, because those taking them end up with fewer hospital admissions and relapses requiring treatment.
“Understanding the impact that DMTs have on healthcare utilization at a population level will help guide health policy decisions related to issues such as the reimbursement or coverage of therapies,” the researchers wrote.
The team, led by researchers at the University of Saskatchewan, assessed the association between DMTs and healthcare utilization among all adults enrolled in the drug plan for the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, and among all adult MS patients enrolled in the plan for that province, between January 1996 and December 2016. The information was extracted from the administrative databases of the Saskatchewan government.
Saskatchewan, like other Canadian provinces, has one of the highest rates of MS worldwide, with a prevalence estimated at 313.6 per every 100,000 people in 2013, the study reported. The population of Saskatchewan was almost 1.1 million in 2016.
Researchers focused on the association between the times that MS patients took DMTs each year, and the number and length of their hospitalizations, as well as physician visits. The study did not differentiate between the types of MS and disease severity.
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