Comparison of fingolimod with interferon beta-1a in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis: a randomised extension of the TRANSFORMS study

Lancet Neurol. 2011 Jun;10(6):520-9. doi: 10.1016/S1474-4422(11)70099-0. Epub 2011 May 13.


Background: In a 12-month phase 3 study in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS), TRANSFORMS, fingolimod showed greater efficacy on relapse rates and MRI outcomes compared with interferon beta-1a. We had two aims in our extension: to compare year 2 with year 1 in the switched patients to assess the effect of a change from interferon beta-1a to fingolimod, and to compare over 24 months the treatment groups as originally randomised to assess the effect of delaying the start of treatment with fingolimod.

Methods: Patients randomly assigned to receive 0.5 mg or 1.25 mg daily oral fingolimod in the core study continued with the same treatment in our extension; patients who originally received 30 μg weekly intramuscular interferon beta-1a were randomly reassigned (1:1) to receive either 0.5 mg or 1.25 mg fingolimod. The initial randomisation and dose of fingolimod assigned for the extension remained masked to the patients and investigators. As in the core study, re-randomisation was done centrally in blocks of six and stratified according to site. Our efficacy endpoints were annualised relapse rate (ARR), disability progression, and MRI outcomes. Our within-group analyses were based on the intention-to-treat and safety populations that entered our extension study. Our between-group analyses were based on the intention-to-treat and safety populations from the core study. This study is registered with, number NCT00340834.

Findings: 1027 patients entered our extension and received the study drug, and 882 completed 24 months of treatment. Patients receiving continuous fingolimod showed persistent benefits in ARR (0.5 mg fingolimod [n=356], 0.12 [95% CI 0.08-0.17] in months 0-12 vs 0.11 [0.08-0.16] in months 13-24; 1.25 mg fingolimod [n=330], 0.15 [0.10-0.21] vs 0.11 [0.08-0.16]; however, in patients who initially received interferon beta-1a, ARR was lower after switching to fingolimod compared with the previous 12 months (interferon beta-1a to 0.5 mg fingolimod [n=167], 0.31 [95% CI 0.22-0.43] in months 0-12 vs 0.22 [0.15-0.31], in months 13-24 p=0.049; interferon beta-1a to 1.25 mg fingolimod [n=174], 0.29 [0.20-0.40] vs 0.18 [0.12-0.27], p=0.024). After switching to fingolimod, numbers of new or newly enlarging T2 and gadolinium (Gd)-enhancing T1 lesions were significantly reduced compared with the previous 12 months of interferon beta-1a therapy (p<0.0001 for T2 lesions at both doses; p=0.002 for T1 at 0.5 mg; p=0.011 for T1 at 1.25 mg), and the pattern of adverse events shifted towards that typical for fingolimod. Over 24 months, in continuous fingolimod groups compared with the group that switched from interferon beta-1a to fingolimod, we recorded lower ARRs (0.18 [95% CI 0.14-0.22] for 0.5 mg; 0.20 [0.16-0.25] for 1.25 mg; 0.33 [0.27-0.39] for the switch group; p<0.0001 for both comparisons), fewer new or newly enlarged T2 lesions (p=0.035 for 0.5 mg, p=0.068 for 1.25 mg), and fewer patients with Gd-enhancing T1 lesions (p=0.001 for 0.5 mg fingolimod vs switch group; p=0.002 for 1.25 mg fingolimod vs switch group). There was no benefit on disability progression.

Interpretation: Switching from interferon beta-1a to fingolimod led to enhanced efficacy with no unexpected safety concerns. Compared with patients switched from interferon beta-1a to fingolimod, continuous treatment with fingolimod for 2 years provides a sustained treatment effect with improved clinical and MRI outcomes.

Funding: Novartis Pharma AG.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Immunologic / therapeutic use*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Fingolimod Hydrochloride
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Injections, Intramuscular
  • Interferon beta-1a
  • Interferon-beta / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / drug therapy*
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / pathology
  • Multiple Sclerosis, Relapsing-Remitting / physiopathology
  • Propylene Glycols / therapeutic use*
  • Sphingosine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Sphingosine / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Adjuvants, Immunologic
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Propylene Glycols
  • Interferon-beta
  • Fingolimod Hydrochloride
  • Sphingosine
  • Interferon beta-1a

Associated data