Association of Rituximab Treatment with Disability Progression among Patients with Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis

Yvonne Naegelin, Peter Naegelin, Stefanie von Felten, Johannes Lorscheider, Judith Sonder, Bernard M. J. Uitdehaag, Barbara Scotti, Chiara Zecca, Claudio Gobbi, Ludwig Kappos, Tobias Derfuss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Importance: Therapeutic options for patients with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS) are limited. Objective: To analyze disability progression in patients with SPMS treated with rituximab compared with matched control patients never treated with rituximab. Design, Setting, and Participants: This retrospective cohort study analyzed data obtained from patients with SPMS at 3 multiple sclerosis centers located in Basel and Lugano, Switzerland, and Amsterdam, the Netherlands, from 2004 to 2017. Patients were included for analysis if they had received a diagnosis of SPMS, were treated (57 eligible; 54 included) or never treated (504 eligible; 59 included) with rituximab, and had at least 1 follow-up visit. The variables used for propensity score matching were sex, age, Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) score, and disease duration. Follow-up duration was up to 10 years, with a mean (SD) of 3.5 (2.6) years for rituximab-treated patients and 5.4 (2.4) years for controls in the total cohort and a mean (SD) of 3.5 (2.7) years for rituximab-treated patients and 4.8 (2.2) years for controls in the matched cohort. Exposures: Comparing EDSS score progression in patients with SPMS (treated with rituximab vs not treated with rituximab) using propensity score matching. Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary end point was progression of EDSS score after baseline, and the secondary end point was time to confirmed disability progression. Results: After 1:1 propensity score matching, 44 matched pairs (88 patients) were included in the analysis. At baseline, patients treated with rituximab had a mean (SD) age of 49.7 (10.0) years, mean (SD) disease duration of 18.2 (9.4) years, and mean (SD) EDSS score of 5.9 (1.4), and 26 (59%) were women, whereas controls had a mean (SD) age of 51.3 (7.4) years, mean (SD) disease duration of 19.4 (8.7) years, and mean (SD) EDSS score of 5.70 (1.29), and 27 (61%) were women. In the covariate-adjusted analysis of the matched set, patients with SPMS who were treated with rituximab had a significantly lower EDSS score during a mean (SD) follow-up of 3.5 (2.7) years (mean difference, -0.52; 95% CI, -0.79 to -0.26; P <.001). Time to confirmed disability progression was significantly delayed in the rituximab-treated group (hazard ratio, 0.49; 95% CI, 0.26-0.93; P =.03). Conclusions and Relevance: In this study, patients with SPMS treated with rituximab had a significantly lower EDSS score for up to 10 years of follow-up and a significantly delayed confirmed progression compared with matched controls, suggesting that B-cell depletion by rituximab may be therapeutically beneficial in these patients. A prospective randomized clinical trial with a better level of evidence is needed to confirm the efficacy of rituximab in such patients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)274-281
JournalJAMA Neurology
Volume76
Issue number3
Early online date2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2019

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