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Polypharmacy in multiple sclerosis: Relationship with fatigue, perceived cognition, and objective cognitive performance

Joanie M Thelen, Sharon G Lynch, Amanda S Bruce, Laura M Hancock, Jared M Bruce

Journal of Psychosomatic Research, Volume 76, Issue 5, May 2014, Pages 400–404


Patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) commonly use a variety of medications to slow disease progression, alleviate symptoms, and treat comorbid conditions. Polypharmacy has been linked to adverse outcomes in other patient groups, but has not been studied extensively in MS. We investigated the impact of polypharmacy on fatigue, objective neuropsychological performance, and subjective cognitive impairment in a sample of patients with MS.

MS patients (n = 85) completed a medication inventory, self-report questionnaires, and a battery of neurocognitive tests. MS patients with polypharmacy were compared to MS patients without polypharmacy, using multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA).

After controlling for disease characteristics, MS patients with polypharmacy (n = 28) exhibited prospective memory deficits and reported significantly more fatigue and subjective cognitive problems than MS patients without polypharmacy.

Clinicians and patients should carefully weigh the costs and benefits of prescribing multiple medications, as these may contribute to iatrogenic fatigue and cognitive problems in MS. Moreover, researchers should account for polypharmacy when conducting studies examining fatigue and cognition in MS.

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About the Editors

  • Prof Timothy Vartanian

    Timothy Vartanian, Professor at the Brain and Mind Research Institute and the Department of Neurology, Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell...
  • Dr Claire S. Riley

    Claire S. Riley, MD is an assistant attending neurologist and assistant professor of neurology in the Neurological Institute, Columbia University,...
  • Dr Rebecca Farber

    Rebecca Farber, MD is an attending neurologist and assistant professor of neurology at the Neurological Institute, Columbia University, in New...

This online Resource Centre has been made possible by a donation from EMD Serono, Inc., a business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany.

Note that EMD Serono, Inc., has no editorial control or influence over the content of this Resource Centre. The Resource Centre and all content therein are subject to an independent editorial review.

The Grant for Multiple Sclerosis Innovation
supports promising translational research projects by academic researchers to improve understanding of multiple sclerosis (MS) for the ultimate benefit of patients.  For full information and application details, please click here

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Recommended by Prof. Brenda Banwell

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Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders, September 2015, Vol 4 Issue 5