Are intravenous steroids better than oral steroids in treating MS relapses?

Oral and intravenous steroids for multiple sclerosis relapse: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Lattanzi S, Cagnetti C, Danni M, Provinciali L, Silvestrini M.

J Neurol 2017; 264:1697-1704.



Glucocorticoids are the standard of care for multiple sclerosis (MS) relapses, but the most desirable route of administration is still matter of debate. The aim of the study was to compare the efficacy and safety of oral versus intravenous steroids for treatment of acute relapses in patients with MS.


Randomized or quasi-randomized, parallel group trials with direct comparison between oral and intravenous steroid treatment in MS patients with acute relapse were identified through a systematic literature search. Six trials were included involving 419 participants, 210 for oral, and 209 for intravenous groups, respectively.


The weighted mean differences (WMDs) in the Kurtzke’s Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) score reduction between the oral and intravenous groups were 0.32 [(-0.09 to 0.73); p = 0.129] and 0.11 [(-0.12 to 0.33); p = 0.355] at 1 and 4 weeks after treatment, respectively. The risk ratios (RRs) for improvement by at least one EDSS point were 0.79 [(0.37-1.68); p = 0.539] at week 1 and 0.92 (0.76-1.12); p = 0.400] at week 4. There were no differences in the relapse rate and relapse freedom at 6 months between groups. The WMDs in the mean percentage reduction of Gadolinium-enhancing lesions between oral and intravenous arms were 0.14 (-0.02, 0.29); p = 0.083] and 0.04 (-0.19, 0.28); p = 0.705] at 1 and 4 weeks from treatment. Among the adverse events, insomnia was significantly associated with the oral route of steroid administration [RR 1.25 (1.07-1.46); p = 0.005].


In adult patients with acute MS relapse, there were no clear-cut differences in the efficacy and overall tolerability between oral and intravenous steroids.


This reference is now included in the neurochecklist:

Multiple sclerosis (MS): treatment of relapses

Abstract link

Little red pills. Jon Nagl on Flikr.



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