Expert opinion (Violet)
Disease-modifying therapies (DMT) for relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) act on the immune system, suggesting a need for caution during the SARS-CoV2/COVID-19 pandemic. A group of experts in MS care from Saudi Arabia convened to consider the impact of COVID-19 on MS care in that country, and to develop consensus recommendations on the current application of DMT therapy. COVID-19 has led to disruption to the care of MS in Saudi Arabia as elsewhere. The Expert Panel considered a DMT’s overall tolerability/safety profile to be the most important consideration on whether or not to prescribe at this time. Treatment can be started or continued with interferon beta, teriflunomide, dimethyl fumarate, or natalizumab, as these DMTs are not associated with increased risk of infection (there was no consensus on the initiation of other DMTs). A consensus also supported continuing treatment regimens with fingolimod (or siponimod) and cladribine tablets for a patient without active COVID-19. No DMT should be imitated in a patient with active COVID-19, and (only) interferon beta could be continued in the case of COVID-19 infection. Vaccination against COVID-19 is a therapeutic priority for people with MS. New treatment should be delayed for 2-4 weeks for vaccination. Where treatment is already ongoing, vaccination against COVID-19 should be administered immediately without disruption of treatment (first-line DMTs, natalizumab, fingolimod), when lymphocytes have recovered sufficiently (cladribine tablets, alemtuzumab) or 4 months after the last dose (ocrelizumab). These recommendations will need to be refined and updated as new clinical evidence in this area emerges.
Al Jumah M, et al. Managing multiple sclerosis in the COVID19 era: a review of the literature and consensus report from a panel of experts in Saudi Arabia. Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2021 Mar 25;51:102925. doi: 10.1016/j.msard.2021.102925