Benefits of early treatment with natalizumab: a real-world study

Daniel Ontaneda, Ellen M. Mowry, Scott D. Newsome, Robert T. Naismith, Jacqueline Nicholas, Elizabeth Fisher, Carl de Moor, Justin Bohn, Pei Ran Ho, Al Sandrock, Richard Rudick, James R. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The impact of early versus later high-efficacy disease-modifying therapy (DMT) in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) is uncertain. This study reported the association of early versus later natalizumab treatment with real-world clinical outcomes in MS patients. Methods: The study included 661 participants diagnosed with MS in 1994 or later from 7 US centers participating in the MS Partners Advancing Technology for Health Solutions (MS PATHS) network. Time to natalizumab treatment between diagnosis and first infusion (TTNT) was determined from the Tysabri Outreach: Unified Commitment to Health (TOUCH) registry. Clinical outcomes were defined using neuroperformance tests included in the Multiple Sclerosis Performance Test. Associations were tested using TTNT as a categorical and continuous variable. Linear mixed models addressed within-subject and within-site clustering. Results: TTNT varied from 0.1 to 19.8 years (median [interquartile range] 4.2 [1.8, 9.0] years). A significant association between later natalizumab use and worse outcomes was demonstrated for walking speed (p < 0.001), processing speed (p < 0.001), manual dexterity (p < 0.001), brain atrophy (p = 0.001), and T2 lesion volume (p = 0.02). Covariate-adjusted modelling of a sensitivity population diagnosed with MS in 2006 or later (n = 424) demonstrated significant associations between longer TTNT and worse walking speed (p < 0.05), processing speed (p < 0.001), and manual dexterity (p < 0.001). Conclusion: Later initiation of natalizumab was associated with worse clinical and radiologic imaging outcomes. Thus, high-efficacy DMT may have greater benefit when started earlier in MS patients. These results provide a rationale for randomized controlled trials to further assess the impact of early highly-effective DMT use versus later escalation of therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104216
JournalMultiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Clinical outcomes
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Natalizumab
  • Radiological outcomes


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