April 30 (HealthDay News) -- Using a steroid drug in combination with a multiple sclerosis (MS) drug may give patients more relief from symptoms than using the MS drug alone, suggests a new study.
In the study, which included 341 people with relapsing-remitting MS, some patients were randomly selected to receive the steroid drug methylprednisolone in three doses over three days once a month, in addition to regular treatment with the MS drug interferon beta-1a. Others received the interferon drug and a placebo.
During the three-year study, the patients were assessed every three months. Those who took the steroid/interferon drug combination had 38 percent fewer relapses (episodes when the disease is active) than those who took the placebo and interferon, the study found. The patients in the steroid/interferon group also showed slight improvement on a test of MS disability, while those in the placebo/interferon group showed a slight decline.
The Biogen Idec-supported study also found that MS-related brain lesions stayed the same size or shrank in the steroid/interferon group but grew larger in the placebo/interferon group. The findings were presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, in Seattle.
"These results indicate that these two drugs may have a synergy when taken together and provide a more beneficial effect on the disease activity," study author Dr. Mads Ravnborg, of the Danish Multiple Sclerosis Research Center at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark, said in an American Academy of Neurology news release. "This is a promising finding, as the benefit from interferon is only moderate, and not everyone responds fully to the treatment, so anything we can do to boost those results is positive."
SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology, news release, April 30, 2009