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Ann Neurol. 2010 Sep;68(3):395-9. doi: 10.1002/ana.22163.

Natalizumab dosage suspension: are we helping or hurting?

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  • 1Multiple Sclerosis Center, University of California at San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA. Timothy.West@ucsf.edu


The risk of developing progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy increases with the duration of treatment with natalizumab. Planned dosage interruptions have been proposed as a means of decreasing cumulative risk. The clinical consequences of dosage interruption were evaluated in a single center cohort of natalizumab-treated patients. Medical records were reviewed for 84 patients identified with multiple sclerosis who received 12 or more infusions of natalizumab at an academic multiple sclerosis center. Eighty-one percent (68/84) underwent a dosage interruption, and 19% (16/84) had no interruption in natalizumab treatment. Of those with a treatment interruption, 27.9% (19/68) experienced a clinical relapse within 6 months of the suspension, whereas none of the patients with ongoing treatment experienced a flare during months 12 to 18 of treatment (p = 0.017, Fisher exact test). Survival analysis showed that Kaplan-Meier curves comparing dosage interruption to ongoing treatment diverged (p = 0.025). Median time from treatment interruption to relapse onset was 3 months. No clinical predictors associated with an increased risk of developing flares during dosage interruption were identified. Among the 19 patients who had a flare, 7 had severe flares, with a mean number of 16 Gad+ lesions on brain magnetic resonance imaging (range, 6-40). Their median Expanded Disability Status Scale at natalizumab interruption was 3.0 and increased to 6.0 during the flare (p = 0.0008). Natalizumab dosage interruption is associated with clinical flares and return of radiographic inflammatory disease activity. Some of these flares can be clinically severe, with a high number of contrast-enhanced lesions, suggesting a possible rebound of disease activity.

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