A late-stage trial has shown that Roche's new treatment for multiple sclerosis, Ocrelizumab, may be extremely effective at treating two different forms of the debilitating disease.
Pharmaceutical company Roche Holding AG’s Genentech unit has announced that its new experimental drug intended to treat multiple sclerosis, ocrelizumab, showed promising results in three separate late-stage studies. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, the new drug may soon be ready to treat patients suffering from the disease, which damages the insulating covers of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
Two of the recent studies traced 1,656 patients with recurring MS, which is the most common form of the disease. Ocrelizumab was significantly more effective at lowering the overall relapse rate than the current standard medication, Rebif. Overall, the drug caused serious side effects in just 10 percent of patients.
The third trial, which only examined 732 patients suffering from primary progressive multiple sclerosis, showed that ocrelizumab was effective at treating and slowing the progression of the disease. The drug was shown in both trials to reduce the rate of serious incidents related to MS to a level of just over 20 percent. This was the first time a medication for MS performed this well in a trial.
Roche still has yet to publish the studies’ complete results. The studies received funding from both Roche and its Genentech division. Results of the study will be presented at a gathering of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis, in Barcelona, Spain.
According to Stephen Hauser, the chief of neurology at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine and the head author of the first two studies examining the effect of the new drug on the relapse rate of MS patients, the findings are potentially a huge deal.
Roche will meet with regulators in the United States and Europe at the beginning of the next financial year to begin the process of filing applications for the drug’s approval. According to neurology professor at Stanford University, Lawrence Steinman, the studies’ findings are great news for the 15 percent of patients who suffer from more progressive forms of MS and have trouble responding to most available medications.
Ocrelizumab failed to outshine other medications for treating relapsing multiple sclerosis, however. Dr. Steinman, who was not involved with carrying out the studies, said that ocrelizumab would probably find its place in the canon of MS medications after several thousands of patients had a chance to report on their experiences. It will take some time before researchers are sure whether the drug is connected to some of the rare but deadly infections that are common while taking other MS medicines.
Numerous other medications on the market have been effective at warding off the relapsing form of MS, and have been able to slow the development of progressive MS. Despite the great leaps forward in medical technology, patients suffering from MS usually find themselves worse off ten years after their initial diagnosis.