Conference Coverage

Fingolimod reduces MS disease activity, compared with glatiramer acetate



A 0.5-mg/day dose of fingolimod reduces disease activity in multiple sclerosis to a greater extent than 20 mg/day of glatiramer acetate, according to a controlled, head-to-head study presented at the annual meeting of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers.

Investigations that directly compare the efficacy and safety of disease-modifying therapies can provide valuable information that influences treatment decisions in clinical practice. Phase 3 clinical trials indicated that oral fingolimod (0.5 mg/day) is more effective than placebo and interferon beta-1a in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). However, how fingolimod compares with glatiramer acetate is unclear.

Bruce A. C. Cree, MD, PhD, clinical research director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues sought to compare the efficacy of once-daily 0.5 mg and 0.25 mg oral fingolimod with that of once-daily 20 mg subcutaneous injections of glatiramer acetate in reducing disease activity over 12 months in patients with relapsing remitting MS. They conducted the phase 3b, multicenter, rater- and dose-blinded ASSESS study. Dr. Cree and colleagues randomized 352 eligible patients to 0.5 mg/day of oral fingolimod, 370 patients to 0.25 mg/day of oral fingolimod, and 342 patients to 20 mg/day of subcutaneous glatiramer acetate. They examined the potential superiority of each fingolimod dose to glatiramer acetate separately, starting with the higher dose. The primary endpoint was the change in annualized relapse rate, and the secondary endpoints were MRI measures of disease activity at 12 months. Finally, the investigators evaluated safety and tolerability.

A total of 859 patients (80.7%) completed the study. Over 12 months, the annualized relapse rate was 0.153 for the 0.5 mg fingolimod group and 0.258 for the glatiramer acetate group (relative reduction, 40.7%). The 0.25-mg dose of fingolimod achieved a numerical RR of 14.6%, but this result was not statistically significant. Compared with glatiramer acetate, the 0.5-mg and 0.25-mg doses of fingolimod significantly reduced the mean number of new or newly enlarged T2 lesions (RR, 54.4% and 42.1%, respectively) and gadolinium-enhancing T1 lesions (RR, 55.6% for both doses).

The adverse events that participants reported for both doses of fingolimod were consistent with the treatment’s known safety profile. More discontinuations were reported with glatiramer acetate than with fingolimod. These events mainly resulted from injection-related adverse events, consent withdrawal, and unsatisfactory therapeutic effects. Dr. Cree and colleagues plan to report the results of additional cognitive and functional system evaluations, including the Symbol Digit Modalities Test and the MS Functional Composite, later this year.

The study was not supported by outside funding. Dr. Cree reported receiving consulting fees from AbbVie, Akili, Biogen, EMD Serono, and Novartis.

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