Study finds need for education on inclusive approaches to MS management

April 26, 2023
Patient ethnic background may influence the presentation of multiple sclerosis and contribute to discrepancies in care, particularly early in disease course. A new study sought to identify areas of disparate care between patients with MS of diverse ethnic backgrounds for focus in continuing medical education. The findings suggest a need for education on inclusive approaches to MS management to resolve shortfalls in the care of patients who are Black, indigenous, and people of color.

Despite the considerable effect of MS on ethnic minority populations, research suggests there is insufficient clinician recognition of differences in disease presentation and experience across minority groups that could compromise their care. A survey was developed to assess patient perspectives on their diagnosis, management, and interest and participation in medical research. Respondents were recruited through the iConquerMS network and completed the survey in April 2022.

Findings from 94 Black, indigenous, and people of color and Hispanic, and 48 non-Hispanic White individuals were analyzed. BIPOC-H patients reported earlier age of symptom onset. Initial symptoms of vision problems or fatigue were more common among BIPOC-H patients. The BIPOC-H group was more likely to seek immediate care, and trended toward more frequent misdiagnosis and longer diagnostic delay.

There were no significant differences in initial or current disease-modifying therapy between groups, though BIPOC-H patients were more likely to receive high-efficacy agents. Patients of Black or mixed background more often changed providers in response to feeling treated unfairly or inadequately. The majority of respondents were interested in clinical trial participation. For BIPOC-H patients, interest was largely related to new treatment access and helping others of similar backgrounds.

MS Focus: The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation contributed to this research project. The findings were presented at the AAN 2023 Annual Meeting in Boston.

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