Objective: To determine whether immediate initiation of treatment at the time of a clinically isolated syndrome in patients at high risk for clinically definite multiple sclerosis alters disease course over 10 years.
Design: Prospective follow-up study.
Setting: Twenty-four Controlled High-Risk Subjects Avonex Multiple Sclerosis Prevention Study (CHAMPS) sites in the United States and Canada.
Participants: A total of 81 patients originally randomly assigned to receive intramuscular interferon beta-1a (the immediate-treatment group) and 74 patients originally randomly assigned to receive placebo (the delayed-treatment group). All patients were from CHAMPS.
Intervention: For the immediate-treatment group, treatment was initiated within a month after the onset of a clinically isolated syndrome, and for the delayed-treatment group, treatment was initiated a median of 30 months (interquartile range, 24-35 months) after CHAMPS randomization.
Main outcome measures: Rate of developing clinically definite multiple sclerosis, annualized relapse rate, disease course classification, disability measures, and magnetic resonance imaging measures.
Results: The immediate-treatment group showed a lower 10-year rate of clinically definite multiple sclerosis (unadjusted hazard ratio, 0.64 [95% CI, 0.48-0.87]; P = .004) and a lower annualized relapse rate between years 5 and 10 (P = .03). There was no differential effect on disability, magnetic resonance imaging T2-weighted lesions, or the proportion of patients developing progressive disease at 10 years. Few patients reached the Expanded Disability Status Scale milestone scores of 4.0 or greater (9% of patients) or 6.0 or greater (6% of patients).
Conclusions: Immediate initiation of intramuscular interferon beta-1a at the time of a clinically isolated syndrome in high-risk patients reduces relapse rates over 10 years but does not improve disability outcomes compared with a control group that also initiated therapy relatively early in the disease course.
Trial registration: clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00179478.