A computer tool for interventions and treatments of MS

Professor Andrew Palmer

Menzies Institute for Medical Research, TAS

| Better treatments | Social And Applied Research | Project | 2015 | Investigator Led Research |


The number of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) is significantly increasing in Australia, and this is associated with escalating direct costs due to medical expenses, as well as substantial indirect costs associated with lost or reduced employment. Existing and upcoming treatments for MS are expensive, with current prices of up to $25,000 per person per year and rising.

Led by Professor Andrew Palmer at Menzies Research Institute Tasmania, using the best available data, this study will use complex statistical and economic modelling to identify the treatments that are greatest value for money for relapsing-remitting MS, with a goal to maximise the health benefits while reducing the impact on limited healthcare resources.

This project will develop a validated computer modelling system of relapsing remitting MS that simulates the progression of illness and the effects of treatments. This project will use large datasets containing relevant risk factors and disease progression data from individuals with MS, as well as long-term cost and quality of life/health utility outcomes. This will be supplemented by evidence from literature, to create a useful and informative resource that can aide the decisions of government and pharmaceutical reimbursement bodies, clinicians, people with MS, and society more broadly. Professor Palmer’s team has an abundant history of successful collaboration and world class knowledge of MS and economic modelling of a number of diseases.

Progress to Date

Professor Palmer is making substantial progress towards realising the aims of this project and developing a complex model for understanding the current treatments for MS in Australia. The first phase of this project involved bringing together information from a range of databases, including the Australian MS Longitudinal study, the Tasmanian MS Longitudinal study, and the AusLong databases. Firstly the data needed to be “refined” so that it accurately reflected just relapsing remitting MS. This involved identifying and omitting the data from people in those studies with early or suspected MS who did not progress to MS, those with missing data, or those with primary or secondary progressive MS.

Data from these databases has been collated and Professor Palmer’s group has developed the prototype of the computer model. This has allowed the team to make some preliminary predictions. His group estimates that the lifetime cost of MS to the community is one million AUD per person with MS, which is ten times higher than juvenile diabetes, for example. They have also predicted that, on average, a person with MS is expected to spend 26.4 years of their life with mild disability, 12.5 years with moderate disability and 4.6 years with severe disability. The model also indicated certain features that are associated with a faster disability progression. These included, male sex, being diagnosed when over 41 years of age, having MS for longer than five years, and not taking any immunotherapies.

This grant has allowed Professor Palmer and his team to present their work at national and international conferences, where one presentation was awarded the “Beset Podium Presentation Award”.

These results are preliminary and further work is required to confirm them, which will be the focus of Professor Palmer’s research this year.

Updated: 17 July 2017


  • Ahmad, H., Taylor, B. V., van der Mei, I., Colman, S., O’Leary, B. A., Breslin, M., & Palmer, A. J. (2016). The impact of multiple sclerosis severity on health state utility values: Evidence from Australia. Multiple Sclerosis Journal, 1352458516672014
  • 3 more in preparation

Updated: 17 July 2017

Updated: 06 January, 2015



Grant Awarded

  •  Project Grant

Total Funding

  • $160,000


  • 2 years over 2015 - 2016

Funding Partner

Read More
David Nolan

Newsletter subscription

  • Enter your details

A computer tool for interventions and treatments of MS