Interferon beta (IFN) is a first-line treatment for relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS) that can reduce the rate of clinical attacks and limit disability progression. Recent trials have shown that initiating IFN treatment at the time of the first clinical event suggesting MS can delay the onset of clinically definite MS and, in the case of IFN -1b, inhibit the progression of later disability. These findings have led to a trend toward earlier treatment initiation in clinical practice. While trials show good levels of adherence to therapy, there often is room for improvement in the clinical setting. Managing MS symptoms and treatment-related adverse events and providing patient education are vital to optimize adherence, and nurses can employ a number of strategies as part of the support program to ensure patients gain the most benefit from their treatment. In addition to providing a great deal of evidence supporting early MS treatment, the ongoing BEtaseron in Newly Emerging multiple sclerosis For Initial Treatment (BENEFIT) study has highlighted the fact that IFN can be well tolerated, especially with correct management. This article summarizes the lessons learned from the BENEFIT study, and the ways in which nurses can incorporate this knowledge into clinical practice.
Questions or comments about this article may be directed to Ute H. Webb, RN CCRP, at firstname.lastname@example.org . She is a retired clinical research project manager for multiple sclerosis at the Ottawa Hospital, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.