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<jats:sec><jats:title>Background:</jats:title><jats:p> Azathioprine (AZA) is a common immunosuppressive drug used for relapse prevention in neuromyelitis optica (NMO). </jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec><jats:title>Objectives:</jats:title><jats:p> The objective of this paper is to assess efficacy, tolerability and retention of AZA in a large NMO cohort. </jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec><jats:title>Methods:</jats:title><jats:p> We conducted a retrospective review of medical records of 103 aquaporin-4 antibody-positive NMO and NMO spectrum disorder (NMOSD) patients treated with AZA. </jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec><jats:title>Results:</jats:title><jats:p> This is the largest reported cohort of AQP4-Ab positive patients treated with AZA. Eighty-nine per cent ( n = 92) had reduction in median annualised relapse rates from 1.5 (IQR 0.6–4.0) to 0 (IQR 0–0.27, p &lt; 0.00005) with treatment. Sixty-one per cent ( n = 63) remained relapse free at a median follow-up of 18 months. Neurological function improved or stabilised in 78%. At last follow-up, treatment was discontinued in 46% ( n = 47). Of these, 62% ( n = 29) were because of side effects, 19% ( n = 9) because of death, 15% ( n = 7) because of ongoing disease activity, and 2% ( n = 1) because of pregnancy. Using Kaplan-Meyer curves, we estimate that 73%, 58%, 47% and 33% of patients will remain on AZA for longer than one, three, five and 10 years, respectively, after initiation of treatment. </jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec><jats:title>Conclusions:</jats:title><jats:p> AZA is a modestly effective treatment for NMO. However, many patients discontinue AZA over time and this seems to reflect poor tolerability more than lack of efficacy. </jats:p></jats:sec>

Original publication




Journal article


Multiple Sclerosis Journal


SAGE Publications

Publication Date





1533 - 1540