ClinicSpeak: are you following medical advice?

How big a problem is DMT adherence in MS? #ClinicSpeak #MSBlog #MSResearch

“On one of our recent MS preceptorships (teaching courses) one of the attendees challenged me about a statement I made that MSers on DMTs were more likely to be adherent to treatment than people with other chronic diseases. He asked what is the evidence? When I looked into this I found a rich literature that MSers are not necessarily more adherent and may be less adherent to treatment due to cognitive issues. Since then during my follow-up consultations I simply ask: ‘please don’t worry about answering the following question correctly, I would like to know, as accurately as possible, how often are you missing one of your injections or tablets?’. I have been pleasantly surprised that most (>80%) of the MSers I have asked this question are missing several injections, or tablets, per month. The biggest problem is with dimethyl fumarate (DMF, Tecfidera); patients are frequently missing evening doses. The main reason given is forgetfulness. Interestingly, with fingolimod (Gilenya) and teriflunomide (Aubagio) it seems to be less of problem. The latter may relate to the fact that both fingolimod*, and teriflunomide, are taken as a once daily tablet and they come in blister packs with 7 tablets allocated by day of the week. In comparison, DMF (Tecfidera)* comes in a bottle and blister packs. The former preparation relies on people remembering if they have taken the tablet or not; in the markets without blister packs there is no nice little undisturbed blister saying you forgot to take me.”

(* In some countries DMF (Tecfidera) is in bottles and in others in blister packs; for example the UK has blister packs. In some countries Fingolimod (Gilenya) has changed from being a blister pack  to being dispensed in a bottle. This is all very confusing, I will try and get some clarity on this and get back to you.)

“Adherence is clearly an issue and we need to take it more seriously. Based on the pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics of the oral tablets (big words for stating how specific drugs are absorbed, metabolised and how long they stay active in the body) poor adherence may be a problem for DMF. It has a very short half-life in the body and the phase 2 trial showed that once daily dosing was ineffective when compared to more frequent dosing. In comparison, both fingolimod and teriflunomide have very long half-lives and missing doses is unlikely to have a major effect on the way these drugs work. Based on my anecdotal evidence I would do a study; I would re-package DMF into blister packs by day of the week, with two blisters per day clearly marked am and pm. I would then do a randomized, cross-over, study to compare adherence to DMF with the current bottle of tablets vs. the blister pack. If the blister pack was more effective in promoting adherence I would switch production to the blister pack.**”

(** This may not be necessary; Biogen may have data on this already. I will try and find out.)

“The pilot study below uses an evidence-based approach to test whether five 20 minute, weekly sessions of Motivational Interviewing/Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (MI-CBT) is better at promoting adherence to DMTs compared to a treatment as usual (TAU) paradigm with only a brief education session. It comes as no surprise that the MI-CBT programme is better at promoting adherence. Maybe we at Barts-MS should adopt the MI-CBT programme? Again any service development of this nature needs resource and there is simply no new resource available from within the NHS at present. As a starter to try and generate some evidence I would appreciate it if you could complete the short survey below to see if my anecdotal evidence is correct.”

Bruce et al. A pilot study to improve adherence among MS patients who discontinue treatment against medical advice. J Behav Med. 2015 Nov 12.

Background: Between 30 and 50 % of MS patients may prematurely discontinue disease modifying therapies. Little research has examined how to best talk with patients who have discontinued treatment against medical advice.

Aim: The aim of this pilot study was to determine whether telephone counseling increases disease modifying therapy (DMT) re-initiation among non-adherent patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). 

Methods: Participants were eligible if they had relapsing-remitting disease, had stopped taking a DMT, and had no plan to re-initiate treatment despite a provider recommendation. Following a baseline assessment, 81 patients were randomly assigned to either five 20 min, weekly sessions of Motivational Interviewing/Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (MI-CBT) or Treatment as Usual (TAU) with brief education. At 10 weeks, patients initially assigned to TAU switched over to MI-CBT. 

Results: Compared to patients in the TAU group, patients undergoing MI-CBT were significantly more likely to indicate they were re-initiating DMT (41.7 vs. 14.3 %). These significant results were replicated among patients crossing over from TAU to MI-CBT. Treatment satisfaction was high, with 97 % of participants reporting that they would recommend MI-CBT to other patients with MS. 

Conclusions: Results of this pilot study provide initial support for the use of MI-CBT among MS patients who have discontinued treatment against medical advice. NCT01925690

CoI: multiple

11 thoughts on “ClinicSpeak: are you following medical advice?”

  1. Re "In comparison, DMF (Tecfidera) comes in a bottle and relies on people remembering if they have taken the tablet or not; there is no nice little blister saying you forgot to take me."I'm on Tecfidera and my tablets come in 28 tablet blister packs not a bottle. There is a handy picture of a sun and a moon and words morning and evening next to the tablets to remind me to take the tablets morning and evening. I take my morning tablet with breakfast and evening tablet with my evening meal.

    1. Wow…. That'd be great. Here in the US comes in a bottle. A day/night blister pack would be great! Probably take another 8 years to pass FDA LOL.

  2. Tecfidera is sold in blister packs in Australia- I was on it for 18 months and only missed 1 dose in that time. After switching to lemtrada it took me a few weeks to not feel like there was something I was forgetting to do!

  3. FYI, GIlenya recently changed their packaging to a 30 day supply in a bottle, and got rid of the blister packs….

  4. I was kinda disappointed when Gilenya was repackaged in a bottle this past summer? because I liked the blister pack. I could label the days and see that I took the pill. It is nice to get 2 extra pills though.

  5. I entered result for my fiance' she's missed Tecfidera doses a few times. We bought a pill case and then had to toss it as the top was clear. She was told someplace or another the med cannot be exposed to light for any term of length based time?She also gets confused at times as to whether she dosed or not as she has a regiment. At night takes her std. meds. Then an hour or so later does her Tecfidera w/ a sandwich. Then hour after that does LDN. Then an hour after that a low dose of seroquel otherwise she cant sleep at all.We now have in place a paper which I desktop published so she checks off all of it daily.

    1. Thanks. Just found out our CNS's that all DMF in the UK is in blister packs. I live and learn something everyday.

  6. I am on tysabri but have seen people starting Gilyena in the infusion suite. Always thought; what about different packaging for guys? is there any way of packaging the product so that guys would take it every day but it isn't packaged like thee pill?

  7. I have put alerts on my phone to help me remember to take my pill. My phone keeps alerting me every 10 mins, and I only dismiss it once I have taken my pill. I have missed my pill at times, but not very often. I live in the US and Biogen sent me a pill box with AM and PM slots. I find it incredibly convenient not just for Tecfidera, but also for my other medication and vitamins.TC

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: