Efficacy and toxicity of cyclosporine in chronic progressive multiple sclerosis: a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial. The Multiple Sclerosis Study Group.
Patients with clinically definite multiple sclerosis, mild to moderately severe neurological disability (entry score on the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) between 3.0 and 7.0), and a progressive course defined by an increase in the EDSS of between 1 and 3 grades in the year prior to entry were randomized to receive either cyclosporine (n = 273) or placebo (n = 274) in a 2-year, double-blinded, multicenter trial. Treatment groups at entry proved balanced for age, gender, duration of illness, and neurological disability. Cyclosporine dosage was adjusted for toxicity and a median trough whole-blood level was maintained between 310 and 430 ng/ml. The mean increase in EDSS score was 0.39 +/- 1.07 grades for cyclosporine-treated patients and 0.65 +/- 1.08 grades for placebo-treated patients from entry until the time of early withdrawal or completion of the study (p = 0.002). Of three primary efficacy criteria, cyclosporine delayed the time to becoming wheelchair bound (p = 0.038; relative risk, 0.765), but statistically significant effects were not observed for "time to sustained progression" or on a composite score of "activities of daily living." Active treatment did have a favorable effect on several secondary measures of disease outcome. A large and differential withdrawal rate (44% for cyclosporine-treated patients, 32% for placebo-treated patients) complicated the analysis but did not appear to explain the observed effect of cyclosporine in delaying disease progression. Multivariate analysis did not show institutional effects but did demonstrate substantial effects of baseline neurological disability on outcome. Nephrotoxicity and hypertension were common troublesome toxicities and accounted for most of the excess loss of patients in the cyclosporine arm of the study. Thus, chronic cyclosporine therapy was associated with a statistically significant but clinically modest delay of progression of disability in a group of patients with multiple sclerosis selected for moderately severe and progressive disease. Close supervision by physicians familiar with cyclosporine is mandatory to minimize known adverse effects, particularly nephrotoxicity, when considering the use of this immunosuppressant.
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