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Risks vs benefits of glatiramer acetate: a changing perspective as new therapies emerge for multiple sclerosis

Authors Johnson K

Published 12 April 2010 Volume 2010:6 Pages 153—172

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/TCRM.S6743

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Kenneth P Johnson

Maryland Center for MS, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Abstract: An understanding of the risks, benefits, and relative value of glatiramer acetate (GA) in multiple sclerosis (MS) has been evolving based on recently completed head-to-head studies: REGARD (REbif vs Glatiramer Acetate in Relapsing MS Disease); BEYOND (Betaseron Efficacy Yielding Outcomes of a New Dose); and BECOME (BEtaseron vs COpaxone in Multiple Sclerosis with Triple-Dose Gadolinium and 3-Tesla MRI Endpoints). Outcomes in the primary endpoints of these trials showed no significant differences between GA and high-dose beta-interferons (IFNβs). Results of the PreCISe (Early GA Treatment in Delaying Conversion to Clinically Definite Multiple Sclerosis [CDMS] in Subjects Presenting With a Clinically Isolated Syndrome [CIS]) trial led to the US Food and Drug Administration approval of GA in patients with a CIS. Furthermore, the ongoing follow-up study to the original pivotal GA trial, now extending beyond 15 years, continues to support the safety of GA. Currently, GA and IFNβs are no longer the only immunomodulators available for MS. Introduction of the monoclonal antibody, natalizumab (Tysabri®; Biogen Idec, Inc., Cambridge, MA, USA) provides an alternative immunomodulator for MS and has changed the therapeutic landscape dramatically. However, the rare but serious cases of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy that have occurred with natalizumab have raised concerns among clinicians and patients about using this agent and some of the emerging agents. The potential risks and benefits of the emerging therapies (cladribine, alemtuzumab, rituximab, fingolimod, laquinimod, teriflunomide, and dimethyl fumarate) based on phase II/III trials, as well as their use for indications other than MS, will be presented. This review provides available data on GA, natalizumab, and the emerging agents to support new developments in our understanding of GA and how its long-standing role as a first-line therapy in MS will evolve within the increasingly complex MS therapeutic landscape.

Keywords: annual relapse rate, alemtuzumab, cladribine, rituximab, fingolimod, teriflunomide, dimethyl fumarate, laquinimod, interferon

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