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Employment rates vary by country among patients with multiple sclerosis

BY JEFF CRAVEN

credit: mirror-images/Getty Images

Multiple sclerosis patients who are young, male and have mild disability are more likely to be employed, based on a recent analysis of multiple sclerosis registries across North America, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

Researchers found that physical and cognitive impairment in MS patients contribute to an overall unemployment rate between 40% and 80%. The study additionally found that employment rates for patients with multiple sclerosis vary by country, with the highest employment rates seen among patients living in Germany.

“This study was able to demonstrate the feasibility of using data from different registries in North America and Europe to examine important questions in MS,” Amber Salter, PhD, from the division of biostatistics at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, said in an interview. She and her colleagues presented their data at the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS) Congress.

The researchers examined employment rates for 31,011 patients with MS, 75% of them women, between 18 years and 62 years old (mean age, 47.5 years) using data from the North American Research Committee on MS (NARCOMS) Registry, the UK MS Register (UK-MS) and the German MS Register (GMSR).

Overall, there were 5,436 patients from the NARCOMS registry, 10,529 patients from the UK-MS registry and 15,046 patients from the GMSR registry included in the study. Patients were categorized as having either mild, moderate or severe disability based on various measurements, including the Patient Determined Disease Steps (PDDS), Multiple Sclerosis Impact Scale (MSIS) and Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS). The patients in the registries also were administered questions about their employment status, whether they worked full-time or part-time, and whether MS contributed to a reduction or discontinuation of work for patients who reported being employed part-time or unemployed. Chi-square tests were used to compare results across the registries.

In the GMSR registry, 10,053 (67%) patients were employed overall compared with 5,064 patients (48%) in the UK-MS registry and 2,322 patients (43%) in the NARCOMS registry. Among employed patients in the GMSR, there were a higher number of men employed (72%) than women (65%); this difference along gender lines was not significant in the NARCOMS registry (41% vs 43%) or in the UK-MS registry (48% vs 48%).

Dr. Amber Salter

Dr. Amber Salter

Patients with mild disability levels had a higher rate of employment in the UK-MS registry (80%) and GMSR (79%) compared with MS patients in the NARCOMS registry (65%), but the employment rate decreased as disability associated with MS increased. In addition, increased age was associated with decreased employment, but patients 30 years or older in the GMSR and UK-MS registries had a higher rate of employment than patients in the NARCOMS registry.

“Variations in health systems and supports, as well as social policies regarding employment accommodations may also influence employment rates,” the researchers wrote in their study.

The results from this study are being updated and a future manuscript will contain those updated results, Dr. Salter said.

NARCOMS is a project of the Consortium of MS Centers (CMSC) and is supported in part by the CMSC and the Foundation of the CMSC. GMSR is a project of the German MS Society. It is supported by the German MS Society’s Trust and the MS Society. The UK MS Register is funded by the MS Society and operated and managed by Swansea (Wales) University Medical School.

One of the authors reported research funding from CIHR, the National MS Society, the MS Society of Canada, the MS Scientific Research Foundation, Research Manitoba, the Consortium of MS Centers, Crohn’s and Colitis Canada and the Waugh Family Chair in Multiple Sclerosis. Dr. Salter and the other authors report no relevant conflicts of interest.