Approaches and challenges in the diagnosis and management of secondary progressive multiple sclerosis: A Central Eastern European perspective from healthcare professionals

Alexey Boyko, Christina Therapontos, Dana Horakova, Jarmila Szilasiová, Jolanta Kalniņa, Julia Kolontareva, Katrin Gross-Paju, Krzysztof Selmaj, Ieva Sereike, Ron Milo, Tereza Gabelić, Uroš Rot

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS) is a debilitating condition characterized by gradual worsening after an initial relapsing disease course. Despite the recent advances in our understanding of the disease, the diagnosis and treatment of SPMS continue to be challenging in routine clinical practice. The aim of this review article is to present the views of leading MS experts on the challenges in the diagnosis and management of SPMS and clinicians’ perspectives in Central and Eastern Europe. This article also provides recommendations of MS experts to improve the situation with diagnosis and management of SPMS. Many countries within Central and Eastern Europe have high prevalence of MS (>100 per 100,000 population). Consistent with the global trend, in the absence of reliable tests or biomarkers, SPMS at early stage remains undiagnosed. Due to diagnostic uncertainty and lack of a universally accepted disease definition, clinicians rely more on retrospective analysis of the clinical symptoms to confirm the diagnosis. With the lack of awareness and poor understanding of the timing of the onset of SPMS, clinicians may tend to direct attention to relapses than the symptoms of progression, which leads to underestimation of SPMS. Although several predictors of progression to SPMS have been identified, their predictive value is highly variable. Therefore, defining the transitioning period as a separate stage of MS is essential. According to experts’ opinion, frequent follow-up of patients and periodic assessment of progression are recommended for the timely identification of patients transitioning from RRMS to SPMS. MSProDiscuss Tool is an example of a quick assessment tool for identifying patients progressing from RRMS to SPMS. MS progression is usually assessed by changes in Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) scores. As EDSS scores tend to fluctuate when measured in the short term (3–6 months), a longer period (≥12 months) may be needed to confirm the progression. Assessment of cognitive function is also important for evaluating secondary progression. Compartmentalization of inflammation within the central nervous system is an important reason behind the limited success of disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) for treating SPMS. Most of the DMTs fail to cross the blood-brain barrier; only 38% of the tested DMTs achieved their primary endpoint in SPMS. In Europe, siponimod is the first oral treatment for adults with active SPMS. Particularly, in Central and Eastern Europe, patients with SPMS are still being prescribed less efficacious DMTs and interferons. The absence of alternative treatments in SPMS supports the use of new products (siponimod and others); however the decision to initiate siponimod therapy in more severe patients (EDSS score of 7 or higher) should be individualized in consultation with the payers. The focus should be on early treatment initiation to delay disease progression.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102778
JournalMultiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders
StatePublished - 1 May 2021


  • Biomarkers
  • Central and Eastern Europe
  • Diagnosis
  • Epidemiology
  • Secondary progressive multiple sclerosis
  • Treatment


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