Smoking affects the interferon beta treatment response in multiple sclerosis

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To investigate whether smoking in patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) treated with interferon beta (IFN-β) is associated with the relapse rate and whether there is an interaction between smoking and human leukocyte antigen (HLA)–DRB1*15:01, HLA-A*02:01, and the N-acetyltransferase-1 (NAT1) variant rs7388368A.


DNA from 834 IFN-β–treated patients with RRMS from the Danish Multiple Sclerosis Biobank was extracted for genotyping. Information about relapses from 2 years before the start of treatment to either the end of treatment or the last follow-up visit was obtained from the Danish Multiple Sclerosis Treatment Register. Smoking information came from a comprehensive questionnaire.


We found that the relapse rate in patients with RRMS during IFN-β treatment was higher in smokers compared to nonsmokers, with an incidence rate ratio (IRR) of 1.20 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.021–1.416, p = 0.027) and with an IRR increase of 27% per pack of cigarettes per day (IRR 1.27, 95% CI 1.056–1.537, p = 0.012). We found no association or interaction with HLA and the NAT1 variant.


In this observational cohort study, we found that smoking is associated with increased relapse activity in patients with RRMS treated with IFN-β, but we found no association or interaction with HLA or the NAT1 variant.

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