Patients at high risk of early discontinuation of Betaferon should receive consistent care from physicians.
Adherence is especially important for patients receive treatment with specialty drugs for conditions, such as multiple sclerosis. Non-adherence to medication can result in poor outcomes and high costs.
A recent study published by PLOS ONE, discovered several factors that put a patient more at risk of not adhering to treatment with Betaferon (interferon beta-1b), which is administered through a daily subcutaneous self-injection.
Included in the study were 852 patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis or clinically isolated syndrome who received treatment with Betaferon 60 days or less before the start of the study.
Each patient responded to a Risk of Drop-Out Questionnaire that includes questions regarding side effects, handling of the drug, trust, treatment support, and disease-related factors.
The goal of the questionnaire is to give care providers insight about whether the patients experience difficulties adhering to the treatment, and also estimate the potential risk of discontinuation of therapy, according to the study.
Scientists also gauged the presence of depression or depression-like symptoms, and determined the level of disability for each patient.
They discovered that younger patients, patients with shorter disease duration, patients with advanced disease, and patients who experienced many adverse events were the most likely to discontinue treatment. Patients with a high relapse rate and greater disease progression were also more likely to stop treatment early.
Fear of needles also impacted treatment cessation rates. Since this medication must be administered by an injection, it is critical that patients be able to self-administer the treatment.
Some patients may have a family member or a friend that is able to administer the medication, but the patient risks not receiving the drug if that trusted individual is not able to on a certain day.
Physical disability and cognitive impairments can also make self-injection very difficult, and can impact adherence as well, according to the study.
Although other treatment options exist, some patients may find that gaining access to non-injectable drugs is difficult since they may have to gain prior approval from their insurance company.
The scientists also found that patients who experienced flu-like symptoms and fever were more likely to stop treatment within the first year. Those who stopped treatment in the second year reported that the treatment was ineffective, and they experienced disease progression, according to the study.
These findings give care providers several risk factors to be aware of when treating patients with multiple sclerosis, and should influence therapy initiation, constant care, and follow-up programs.
High-risk patients should be identified early, and be given the proper support to prevent non-adherence, the study concluded.