Degenerative Phase and the Central Nervous System: Life Expectancy for MS Patients

First Posted: Jan 21, 2014 11:16 AM EST

Researchers from the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University took the first large scale study in the United States regarding mortality and a chronic disease of the central nervous system, multiple sclerosis (MS).

At this time, there are roughly 250,000 to 350,000 patients living with MS in the United States. That's approximately one in 1,000, according to background information from the study.

As the degenerative phase affects the majority of patients, despite disease modifying-agents to reduce the activity of the health issue, many must face the possibility of a decreased life span due to the health problem.

"Our findings are consistent with what has been reported elsewhere in the world," explained lead study author David Kaufman, ScD, the lead study author, of the university, according to a press release. "While the results apply only to the commercially insured U.S. population, that group represents more than two-thirds of individuals under age 65, and this is the first time an MS survival disadvantage has been shown in this country."

For the study, researchers used health insurance claims data to identify a series of patients with MS. They then compared the group of individuals from the same health plans who did not suffer from the health issue. A total of 30,402 patients and 89,818 non-MS subjects who were in the OptumInsight Research (OIR) database from 1996 to 2009 were included in the study.

Government records revealed data on deaths, with annual mortality rates 899/100,000 MS patients and 446/100,000 counterparts. The study also showed that the median lifespan was 6 years less among the MS patients than the other group involved in the study.

Though researchers stress that early death due to MS alone is rare, those living in the United States with MS compared to the general population may experience a decreased life expectancy. However, they also add that other environmental and genetic factors may play a role, and future follow-up studies that include the introduction of anti-MS drugs introduced in the 1990s may suggest an impact on survival.

More information regarding the study can be found via the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders

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