Background: Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) is associated with natalizumab treatment. We quantified the risk of PML in patients with multiple sclerosis, according to the presence or absence of three risk factors: positive status with respect to anti-JC virus antibodies, prior use of immunosuppressants, and increasing duration of natalizumab treatment.
Methods: We used data from postmarketing sources, clinical studies, and an independent Swedish registry to estimate the incidence of PML among natalizumab-treated patients with multiple sclerosis, according to positive or negative status with respect to anti-JC virus antibodies, prior or no prior use of immunosuppressants, and duration of treatment (1 to 24 months vs. 25 to 48 months). Blood samples were available for anti-JC virus antibody testing from 5896 patients with multiple sclerosis and from 54 patients with multiple sclerosis who were treated with natalizumab and in whom PML later developed.
Results: As of February 29, 2012, there were 212 confirmed cases of PML among 99,571 patients treated with natalizumab (2.1 cases per 1000 patients). All 54 patients with PML for whom samples were available before the diagnosis were positive for anti-JC virus antibodies. When the risk of PML was stratified according to three risk factors, the risk of PML was lowest among the patients who were negative for anti-JC virus antibodies, with the incidence estimated to be 0.09 cases or less per 1000 patients (95% confidence interval [CI], 0 to 0.48). Patients who were positive for anti-JC virus antibodies, had taken immunosuppressants before the initiation of natalizumab therapy, and had received 25 to 48 months of natalizumab treatment had the highest estimated risk (incidence, 11.1 cases per 1000 patients [95% CI, 8.3 to 14.5]).
Conclusions: Positive status with respect to anti-JC virus antibodies, prior use of immunosuppressants, and increased duration of natalizumab treatment, alone or in combination, were associated with distinct levels of PML risk in natalizumab-treated patients with multiple sclerosis. (Funded by Biogen Idec and Elan Pharmaceuticals.).