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Treatment Within Six Months of First MS Symptoms Delays Progression

July 19, 2023

In a study of 580 people who had experienced one episode of MS symptoms, early treatment with an MS disease-modifying therapy significantly delayed worsening of disability later. The study adds evidence to the important benefits of early treatment for MS. Get resources below for how to make treatment decisions early in your MS journey.
Background: MS experts recommend that anyone who has been diagnosed with a relapsing form of MS should consider beginning treatment with an approved disease-modifying therapy (DMT) soon after the diagnosis is established. Many also recommend treatment for those who have “clinically-isolated syndrome” (CIS — a first episode of neurologic symptoms that often turns into definite MS). Early treatment of MS and CIS is thought to reduce the risk of future disease activity, MS relapses, and the progression of disability.
The Study: To further examine the impacts of early treatment, a team in Spain led by Drs. Mar Tintore and Xavier Montalban (Multiple Sclerosis Center of Catalonia and the Autonomous University of Barcelona) tracked 580 people who had experienced a first episode of neurologic symptoms typical of MS (CIS). Participants were either treated with a DMT within six months after the first episode, or between six and 16 months, or after 16 months. The team followed individuals with MRI scans and clinical exams for an average of 11 years. Among several outcomes explored, they compared the time it took each group to progress to a score indicating moderate disability on the standard scale that measures disability in MS (EDSS). They also looked at the time it took each group to develop secondary progressive MS, which is a stage of MS that involves steadily worsening disability.
Results: On average, people who were treated with a DMT within six months of their first episode of MS symptoms had a 45% lower risk of reaching moderate disability than those treated after 16 months. Those treated within six months also had a 60% lower risk of developing secondary progressive MS than people treated after 16 months. No significant findings were reported for the group treated between six and 16 months.
What does this mean? This study adds important evidence that early treatment of MS or CIS can protect people from worsening disease. This study also reinforces the importance of making an accurate diagnosis as early as possible; new recommendations have just been published to expedite this process.
Learn More…
  • Access information and resources to help you make treatment decisions when you are new to MS
  • How do you choose the right therapy? Learn this and more in a “New to MS” webinar from the Society’s Ask an MS Expert series
  • Early treatment is not the only means of getting a jump on MS – watch a webinar about “Pre-Habilitation” – adding wellness interventions as early as possible to the MS journey
Association of Very Early Treatment Initiation With the Risk of Long-Term Disability in Patients With a First Demyelinating Event,” by Alvaro Cobo-Calvo, Carmen Tur, Susana Otero-Romero, Pere Carbonell-Mirabent, Mariano Ruiz, Agustin Pappolla, Javier Villacieros Alvarez, Angela Vidal-Jordana, Georgina Arrambide, Joaquín Castilló, Ingrid Galan, Marta Rodríguez Barranco, Luciana soledad Midaglia, Carlos Nos, Breogan Rodriguez Acevedo, Ana Zabalza de Torres, Neus Mongay, Jordi Rio, Manuel Comabella, Cristina Auger,  Jaume Sastre-Garriga, Alex Rovira, Mar Tintore, and Xavier Montalban is published in Neurology (published online July 19, 2023).

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system. Currently there is no cure. Symptoms vary from person to person and may include disabling fatigue, mobility challenges, cognitive changes, and vision issues. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical to minimize disability. Significant progress is being made to achieve a world free of MS.

About the National Multiple Sclerosis Society

The National MS Society, founded in 1946, is the global leader of a growing movement dedicated to creating a world free of MS. The Society funds cutting-edge research for a cure, drives change through advocacy and provides programs and services to help people affected by MS live their best lives. Connect to learn more and get involved:, Facebook, X, formerly known as Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or 1-800-344-4867.


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