12:00pm Saturday 06 June 2020

New Research: Gender Differences Impact Management of MS

ST. LOUIS – New research by Saint Louis University and Express Scripts, Inc. suggests that men with multiple sclerosis (MS) may require more education and support to manage their disease and therapy than women with MS. Men also may benefit from more targeted adherence interventions.

Amy Rauchway, D.O.

The study found that female MS patients report better awareness of disease symptoms and have more positive perceptions of their ability to manage therapy with disease-modifying medications.

A report based on this study was published in the April 2010 Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy. The study’s results are based on a 2008 survey of patients taking a medication to treat MS.

The survey measured clinical characteristics, symptom awareness and perceived ability to manage therapy. Of the 2,022 respondents, female MS patients reported higher levels of:

  • Relapse recognition and awareness of disease symptoms
  • Knowing what to do if they miss a dose
  • Awareness of therapy options
  • Thinking that their medication was effective

Although MS affects females at two to three times the rate it affects males, the disease has a later average onset and tends to progress faster among men. While previous studies have suggested that female MS patients are more optimistic about their ability to function with the disease, no study has addressed the impact of gender on self-reported symptom awareness or perceived ability to manage therapy with disease-modifying medications.

These factors are essential for optimal long-term disease management.

Amy Rauchway, D.O., a study co-investigator and assistant professor of neurology and psychiatry at Saint Louis University who treats patients who have multiple sclerosis, said the research offers important insight to guide the education component of patient care.

“We need to be more vigilant in letting men know about the many community resources for MS. In addition, as health care professionals we should have particularly strong follow-up with men so they don’t feel isolated with this disease,” Rauchway said.

Because patient perceptions are related to adherence, the findings in this study may play an important role in enhancing patients’ adherence to disease-modifying medications.

“A study such as this one that sheds light on gender differences in attitudes about therapy and symptom management addresses an important quality of life issue for people with MS, especially since research suggests that starting and staying on a disease-modifying MS therapy provides better outcomes, ” said Patricia O’Looney, Ph.D., vice president of biomedical research at the National MS Society.

“The results of this study could also be helpful in developing new programs that might improve MS therapy adherence.”

The most effective solutions for non-adherence are likely to come from an advanced understanding of how to drive positive behavior change, added Emily R. Cox, Ph.D., vice president of research and analysis at Express Scripts and a study author.

Other study authors are Anna Vlahiotis, senior manager of research and clinical services at Express Scripts, Inc.; Rebecca Lich, Pharm. D., director of specialty product management at Express Scripts; and Thomas E. Burroughs, Ph.D., professor and executive director of Saint Louis University Center for Outcomes Research.

Nancy Solomon

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