A couple of large clinical trials show that Roche’s new multiple sclerosis drug cuts risk of relapse by up to half. The new medicine ocrelizumab is more effective than Rebif and other drugs used by clinicians to prevent the disease from relapsing and advancing.
Ocrelizumab was also effective in treating progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS), a condition that impairs 15 percent of MS patients and has no official cure.
Roche unveiled trial results at the annual meeting of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis in Spain.
The drug maker hopes that the new drug’s proven efficiency and fewer side-effects may help MS patients in a way other drugs failed to do. Market watchers hope that ocrelizumab will translate into multi-billion of dollars worth of sales every year, and help the company explore new drugs beyond its cancer drug line.
Both trials showed that Roche’s new multiple sclerosis drug cuts risk of relapse by up to half; in the first trial relapse risk was reduced by 46 percent, while in the second it was trimmed by 47 percent. Trials also showed that the drug slowed down disability progression in PPMS by up to 43 percent.
Rebif’s rate of success in reducing relapse is around 33 percent. While ocrelizumab provides a similar rate of success to older drugs, its success in tackling confirmed disability progression (CDP) gives it an edge.
When the disease is too advanced, doctors switch to more powerful drugs such as Sanofi’s Lemtrada or Biogen’s Tysabri. But these medications usually have severe side-effects. Fortunately, Roche’s ocrelizumab was proven as effective as these powerful drugs but without the plethora of side-effects.
Dr. Stephen Hauser, lead researcher involved in the two trials and MS expert at University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, explained that the new drug is as safe as standard-of-care interferons. Hauser also hopes that the trails’ results may encourage MS research teams to look more closely at earlier treatments for the condition.
And safer drugs are a priority for MS research since the debilitating disease forces the patient’s immune system to attack the outer layers of brain cells. If drugs fail to rein in this inappropriate body response, infections and other problems might occur.
Roche announced that it would file for regulatory approval for the new drug in early 2016. The drug is slated to reach the market in 2017.
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