Evaluating the safety of beta-interferons in MS A series of nested case-control studies

Hilda J. I. de Jong, Elaine Kingwell, Afsaneh Shirani, Jan Willem Cohen Tervaert, Raymond Hupperts, Yinshan Zhao, Feng Zhu, Charity Evans, Mia L. van der Kop, Anthony Traboulsee, Paul Gustafson, John Petkau, Ruth Ann Marrie, Helen Tremlett*, British Columbia Multiple Sclerosi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective: To examine the association between interferon-beta (IFN-beta) and potential adverse events using population-based health administrative data in British Columbia, Canada.

Methods: Patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) who were registered at a British Columbia Multiple Sclerosis Clinic (1995-2004) were eligible for inclusion and were followed up until death, absence from British Columbia, exposure to a non-IFN-beta disease-modifying drug, or December 31, 2008. Incidence rates were estimated for each potential adverse event (selected a priori and defined with ICD-9/10 diagnosis codes from physician and hospital claims). A nested case-control study was conducted to assess the odds of previous IFN-beta exposure for each potential adverse event with at least 30 cases. Cases were matched by age (65 years), sex, and year of cohort entry, with up to 20 randomly selected (by incidence density sampling) controls. Odds ratios (ORs) with 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were estimated with conditional logistic regression adjusted for age at cohort entry.

Results: Of the 2,485 eligible patients, 77.9% were women, and 1,031 were treated with IFN-beta during follow-up. From the incidence analyses, 27 of the 47 potential adverse events had at least 30 cases. Patients with incident stroke (ORadj 1.83, 95% CI 1.16-2.89), migraine (ORadj 1.55, 95% CI 1.18-2.04), depression (ORadj 1.33, 95% CI 1.13-1.56), and hematologic abnormalities (ORadj 1.32, 95% CI 1.01-1.72) were more likely to have previous exposure to IFN-beta than controls.

Conclusions: Among patients with RRMS, IFN-beta was associated with a 1.8-and 1.6-fold increase in the risk of stroke and migraine and 1.3-fold increases in depression and hematologic abnormalities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2310-2320
Number of pages11
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2017


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