Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is highly comorbid with mental disorders in any disease stage, while psychiatric manifestations may precede the onset of neurological symptoms as well as diagnosis. Neuropsychiatric comorbidities are associated with an elevated risk of MS disability progression, and therefore, people with multiple sclerosis (PwMS) with psychiatric comorbidities often experience a significantly lower functional status, perform worse in objective neuropsychological assessment, are less likely to adhere to pharmacological treatment, and exhibit higher levels of disruption of their supportive social environment as compared with “non-psychiatric” PwMS. The present study aims to estimate the nationwide use of psychopharmacological agents by PwMS in Greece. Prescription records of the nationwide digital prescription database were analyzed, in order to identify PwMS that have received prescriptions of an antipsychotic, an antidepressant, an anxiolytic or a psychostimulant during a 2-year study period. Pseudo-anonymized prescription records of PwMS (n=21218) were extracted from the Greek nationwide prescription database, dating from June 2017 to May 2019. According to this national level study, psychopharmacological agents are frequently prescribed in PwMS. Antidepressants were prescribed in 36.1% of the study sample, followed by anxiolytics (16.23%), psychostimulants (4.97%) and antipsychotics (3.76%). The proportion of patients under treatment with these agents was increasing with age. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, second generation antipsychotics and benzodiazepines were the most often prescribed agents in each drug category and especially in younger age groups, possibly indicating a better efficacy/side-effect equilibrium, while modafinil was the only psychostimulant prescribed aiming to ameliorate levels of fatigue. A pharmacological preference for antidepressants and psychostimulants was observed in the 40-60 age group (p = 0.02), while antipsychotics and anxiolytics were more frequently prescribed in the >60 age group (p<0.001). Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors were mostly prescribed within the 40-60 age-group. Benzodiazepines were less favored among the >60 age-group. This study highlights the   increased prevalence of mental disorders in this patient group. Adequate treatment and monitoring of psychiatric symptomatology, may improve long-term outcomes of the disease, however caution is needed regarding potential drug interactions and side effects.

KEYWORDS: Multiple sclerosis, psychopharmacology, benzodiazepines, antidepressants, antipsychotics, psychostimulants.

Christos Bakirtzis, Maria-Valeria Karakasi, Marina-Kleopatra Boziki, Theodoros Moysiadis, Dimitra Tsakona, Barbara Fyntanidou, Georgios Papazisis, Eleftherios Thireos, Nikolaos Grigoriadis

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