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Neurology. 2008 Jul 29;71(5):357-64. doi: 10.1212/01.wnl.0000319648.65173.7a.

Quantitative risk-benefit analysis of natalizumab.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, USA.



To model the long-term risks and benefits of natalizumab in individuals with relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS).


We created a Markov model to evaluate treatment effects on reducing relapses and slowing disease progression using published natural history data and clinical trial results. Health changes, measured in quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs), were based on patient health preferences. Patient cohorts treated with no disease-modifying treatment, natalizumab, subcutaneous interferon beta-1a, and a theoretical "perfect" MS treatment were modeled. Sensitivity analysis was used to explore model uncertainty, including varying risks of developing progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML).


Treatment with natalizumab resulted in 9.50 QALYs over a 20-year time horizon, a gain of 0.80 QALYs over the untreated cohort and 0.38 QALYs over interferon beta-1a. The health loss due to PML was small (-0.06 QALYs). To offset natalizumab's incremental health gain over interferon beta-1a, the risk had to increase from 1 to 7.6 PML per 1,000 patients treated over 17.9 months. The "perfect" MS treatment accumulated 10.59 QALYs over the 20-year time horizon, 1.89 QALYs above the untreated cohort. Interferon beta-1a resulted in greater QALY gains compared with natalizumab if natalizumab's relative relapse reduction was reduced from 68% to 35% or if interferon beta-1a's relative reduction was increased from 32% to 65%.


A more than sevenfold increase in actual risk of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy was required to decrease natalizumab's health gain below that of interferon beta-1a, and there remains considerable room for additional gains in health (>50%) beyond those already achieved with current therapies.

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