Prior to developing MS, some people have symptoms which suggest an inflammatory-demyelinating disease. These people, who don’t fulfil the criteria to be diagnosed with definite MS, are diagnosed with clinically isolated syndrome (CIS). CIS is an early indicator of MS, but not all people with CIS will go on to have definite MS.

Betaferon/Betaseron in Newly Emerging MS for Initial Treatment (also known as BENEFIT) was a drug trial involving 468 people with CIS, which tested whether early treatment of CIS was beneficial to delay the time of conversion to definite MS. All those on placebo were switched to active treatment after 2 years, or earlier in the case of an MS diagnosis.

In this new study, researchers report the extended phase of BENEFIT, which began more than a decade ago, looking at the long term outcomes of the early treatment of people with CIS.

The result of this extended 11 year follow up of 268 people in the BENEFIT study shows that early treatment of CIS (during the first two years) can have beneficial effects when compared to a later treatment (after two years of CIS). For example, the rate of relapses was reduced and cognitive functioning (such as the speed of processing information) was improved in people who were treated earlier. However, there was no difference between people who were treated early and those who were treated later when researchers looked at disease activity on MRI lesions or brain shrinkage.

This study adds to the evidence that early treatment of MS is beneficial and supports the value of treatment at CIS.

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