FDA approves Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) for relapsing and primary progressive forms of multiple sclerosis

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Genentech has announced that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) as the first and only medicine for both relapsing and primary progressive forms of multiple sclerosis. The majority of people with MS have a relapsing form or primary progressive MS at diagnosis.

“The FDA’s approval of Ocrevus is the beginning of a new era for the MS community and represents a significant scientific advance with this first-in-class B cell targeted therapy,” says Sandra Horning, chief medical officer and head of Global Product Development. “Until now, no FDA-approved treatment has been available to the primary progressive MS community, and some people with relapsing forms of MS continue to experience disease activity and disability progression despite available therapies. We believe Ocrevus, given every six months, has the potential to change the disease course for people with MS, and we are committed to helping those who can benefit gain access to our medicine.”

In two identical RMS Phase III studies (OPERA I and OPERA II), Ocrevus demonstrated superior efficacy on the three major markers of disease activity by reducing relapses per year by nearly half, slowing the worsening of disability and significantly reducing MRI lesions compared with Rebif (high-dose interferon beta-1a) over the two-year controlled treatment period. A similar proportion of people in the Ocrevus group experienced a low rate of serious adverse events and serious infections compared with people in the high-dose interferon beta-1a group in the RMS studies.

In a separate PPMS phase III study (ORATORIO), Ocrevus was the first and only treatment to significantly slow disability progression and reduce signs of disease activity in the brain (MRI lesions) compared with placebo with a median follow-up of three years. A similar proportion of people in the Ocrevus group experienced adverse events and a low rate of serious adverse events compared with people in the placebo group in the PPMS study.

The most common side effects associated with Ocrevus in all phase III studies included infusion reactions and upper respiratory tract infections, which were mostly mild to moderate in severity. Results from these three phase III studies were recently published in the 19 January, 2017 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

“This is an exciting day for everyone touched by MS, a disease that strikes in the prime of a person’s life when she or he may be starting a career or family,” says June Halper, chief executive officer at the Consortium for MS Centers. “We have eagerly awaited the FDA approval of Ocrevus because it not only offers a new, highly efficacious treatment option for people with relapsing multiple sclerosis, but it is also the first disease-modifying therapy indicated for primary progressive multiple sclerosis, a highly disabling type of this chronic disease. For many people living with MS, this FDA approval is a source of hope.”

Ocrevus will be available to people in the USA within two weeks. Genentech is committed to helping people access the medicines they are prescribed and will be offering comprehensive services for people prescribed Ocrevus to help minimise barriers to access and reimbursement.

The Ocrevus Marketing Authorisation Application (MAA) has also been validated by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and is currently under review.