Comparative assessment of immunomodulating therapies for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis

CNS Drugs. 2002;16(8):563-78. doi: 10.2165/00023210-200216080-00005.


The past decade has seen unprecedented advances in the development of disease-modifying therapies for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS), a disease that has a worldwide prevalence of two million patients. Four agents with the ability to modulate the immune system are now being widely used for RRMS. Of these, three are forms of interferon (IFN)-beta [IFNbeta-1b and two preparations of IFNbeta-1a (Avonex and Rebif], and one is a polypeptide of four amino acids (glatiramer acetate) with a unique mechanism of action. The administration regimens for the IFNbeta-1a products differ, with Avonex being given as 30 microg intramuscularly once a week and Rebif being given as 22 or 44 microg subcutaneously three times a week. It appears safe to predict that both forms of IFNbeta and glatiramer acetate will remain standard treatments for MS for years to come. However, with four therapeutic options available for RRMS, selecting a single therapy is often difficult and necessitates comparisons of the agents, which can be contentious. All four agents have shown superiority over placebo in pivotal phase III trials. Three recent prospective comparative studies have indicated that IFNbeta-1b, Rebif and glatiramer acetate may be more optimal choices than Avonex for patients with RRMS. In a pharmaceutical environment with an estimated worldwide market of $US2.5 billion annually for RRMS, comparative studies are understandably provocative, but at the same time provide meaningful information to clinicians and patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / administration & dosage
  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / therapeutic use*
  • Glatiramer Acetate
  • Humans
  • Interferon Type I / administration & dosage
  • Interferon Type I / therapeutic use
  • Interferons / therapeutic use*
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / immunology
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / therapy*
  • Peptides / administration & dosage
  • Peptides / therapeutic use
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Interferon Type I
  • Peptides
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Glatiramer Acetate
  • Interferons