Pharmaceutical company, Roche, known for drugs such as Boniva and Tamiflu, has a new drug in the making that it is hoping will help reduce multiple sclerosis relapses and clinical trials are showing very positive results.
According to Reuters, the new drug, ocrelizumab, cut the annualized relapse rate by 46 and 47 percent in the two trials. Rebif, an older drug that is currently being used, reduces relapses by about 33 percent. Both drugs show a similar incidence rate of serious side effects, about 10 percent.
The Wall Street Journal details these trials, saying that the two studies were comprised of 1,656 patients with relapsing multiple sclerosis. A third trial was also performed including 732 patients with primary progressive multiple sclerosis, a less common form of the condition which affects about 15 percent of multiple sclerosis patients. Ocrelizumab was found to be more effective in slowing the progression of the condition than a placebo, marking the first time a drug has been beneficial in this form of multiple sclerosis.
The chief of neurology at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, Dr. Stephen Hauser, says, “This is potentially a big deal for our patients.” Dr. Hauser was also leader for two of the Roche studies.
The finding may encourage the MS community to look more closely at earlier treatment of the disease
Usually more powerful drugs are used only in advanced cases of the disease but ocrelizumab may be able to be used earlier than these drugs because it is safer to use. The drug is administered via intravenous drip twice yearly and can be done during regular neurologist appointments.
A meeting with regulators in the United States and Europe is scheduled to discuss drug approval. If all goes as planned, Roche believes that ocrelizumab will be approved in early 2016 and hopefully would be on the market for widespread use sometime in 2017.