Defining Benign/Burnt-Out MS and Discontinuing Disease-Modifying Therapies


To determine whether MS disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) can be safely discontinued in patients aged 50 years or older with suspected benign/burnt-out MS and to define criteria to identify such patients.


We conducted a retrospective cohort study of 136 patients with suspected benign/burnt-out MS who discontinued DMTs from the electronic health record (EHR) at Kaiser Permanente Southern California.


The majority discontinued an injectable DMT (n = 131, 96%). At the time of DMT discontinuation, mean and SD for age was 60.6 (6.2) years, disease duration 19.5 (10.7) years, and time since last relapse 11.0 (7.2) years. After a mean duration of follow-up of 5.0 years post-DMT discontinuation, 5 (3.7%) patients had a relapse, 2 (1.5%) had mild residual deficits, and 3 (2.2%) had asymptomatic MRI disease activity. Patients with MS disease activity following DMT discontinuation were younger (median = 53.6 years) than those who remained disease activity free. Fifty patients (36.8%) had only 1 lifetime relapse, of whom 1 relapsed post-DMT discontinuation. Sixty (56.6%) of 106 patients with spinal cord MRIs before discontinuation showed demyelinating lesions.


DMT discontinuation in older patients with suspected benign/burnt-out MS appears safe. Our findings suggest that MRI evidence of spinal cord involvement does not preclude the possibility of benign/burnt-out MS, and for those with 2 or more lifetime relapses, a benign/burn-out classification is best reserved for those aged 55 years and older. Future studies to determine whether DMT discontinuation is safe at a younger age in patients with a single lifetime relapse are needed.

Classification of Evidence

The study provides Class IV evidence that DMTs can be safely discontinued in older patients with suspected benign/burnt-out MS.

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