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The Pulse of the Pharmaceutical Industry

Roche and Subsidiaries Ramp Up Treatment Options for Multiple Sclerosis

Written by: | | Dated: Monday, April 23rd, 2018


By Alex Keown


Roche and its subsidiaries are ramping up treatment options for multiple sclerosis. Earlier this month the company acquired a regenerative therapy program for MS from Inception Sciences and now today Roche’s Genentech announced new data showcasing the efficacy of Ocrevus in relapsing multiple sclerosis (RMS).

During a presentation at the American Academy of Neurology meeting in Los Angeles Genentech released data that showed that Ocrevus, a monoclonal antibody designed to target CD20-positive B cells, slowed disability progression in MS and supported the approach of early disease treatment. Patients who were on the treatment for four years saw a sustained reduction in underlying disease activity, Genentech said.  Additional analyses show Ocrevus delayed cognitive decline and improved cognitive function in RMS, as measured by Symbol Digit Modalities Test

Stephen Hauser, chair of the department of neurology at the University of California at San Francisco and a researcher on the study, said the extension study data showed that patients who received Ocrevus “continuously experienced less disease progression than those who began treatment at a later time point.”

“It is encouraging that with up to four years of data, we continue to see a robust effect and a consistent safety profile,” Hauser said in a statement.

Treatment with Ocrevus also provided greater disease relief to patients who had been taking interferon beta-1a therapies. Data showed that patients who remained on the drug during the study maintained low numbers of T1 gadolinium-enhancing (T1Gd+) lesions at year four. There were also low numbers of new/enlarging T2 (N/ET2) lesions through year two of the OLE phase, Genentech said. However, Genentech said patients who switched to Ocrevus from EMD Serono’s Rebif (interferon beta-1a) at the start of the OLE period had a near-complete silencing of T1Gd+ lesions per scan at one and two years. Additionally, those patients saw an 85 and 97 percent decrease in N/ET2 lesions per scan at years one and two, respectively, the company said.

Also, during the presentation, Genentech said new cognitive performance data showed treatment with Ocrevus reduced the risk of 12- and 24-week confirmed cognitive decline by 38 and 39 percent during the 96-week period in people with RMS, compared to interferon beta-1a. Cognitive impairment occurs in up to 65 percent of people with multiple sclerosis.

“Preserving cognitive function is an important treatment goal in MS as it relates to information processing, problem-solving and focusing in day-to-day life,” Stanley Cohan, medical director of Providence Multiple Sclerosis Center in Portland, Oregon, said in a statement. “These data, which show that Ocrevus not only delayed onset of documented cognitive decline but may also improve cognitive function in people with multiple sclerosis, support a potential role for this therapy in addressing one of the most important, common and challenging realities of multiple sclerosis-induced disability.”

A second four-year of treatment with the drug showed that patients who stayed on Ocrevus through year two of the OLE period sustained low annualized relapse rates and 24-week confirmed disability progression (CDP24). Those who switched from interferon beta-1a to Ocrevus experienced a significant decline in ARR in the first year. That decline was maintained through year two, the company added.

The positive news for Ocrevus did not end there. Genentech also shared data that showed treatment with the drug reduced the presence of nerve damage and inflammation biomarkers in spinal fluid at 12 and 24 weeks. The median number of CD19+ B cells also declined during the same time period by 86 percent and 82 percent, respectively.



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