Roche (NASDAQ:RHHBY) has announced that its multiple sclerosis (MS) drug ocrelizumab has shown promising results in three separate late-stage trials. MS affects about 400,000 Americans, and million around the world, but treatments are limited due to the mysterious nature of the disease.
Two studies, OPERA I and OPERA II were carried out in people with relapsing MS, which affects 85 percent of people at the time of diagnosis. It was found that ocrelizumab was superior to interferon beta-1a (Rebif), a well-known MS therapy, which reduces three major markers of disease over a two-year old controlled treatment period. Pharmaceutical company Roche developed the drug, and the data from the trials showed positive results.
“The results of three pivotal trials have the potential to transform the treatment of MS,” said Sandra Horning, Roche’s chief medical officer and global product development.
Though Rebif drug is effective in regular cases of MS, it has been found ineffective against primary progressive sclerosis (PPMS), which affects about 15 percent of MS patients. In comparison, ocrelizumab has been found effective in treating the disease and slowing its progression. Researchers studied 732 patients suffering from the rare, but extremely progressive multiple sclerosis. About 10 percent of patients suffered from side effects.
Results found that the drug provides a 46 percent and 47 percent reduction in relapse rates. The new drug is a humanized monoclonal antibody, allowing to attach to its target more effectively than other competing drugs. Patients saw a 24 percent decrease in disease progression over 12 weeks and a 25 percent decrease over 24 weeks. Globally, the disease affects more than 2.3 million people, making it one of the most widespread diseases. The immune system of affected people begins to attack the protective coverings of nerves, especially the fatty protective layer called myelin.
However, it remains unclear why the immune system attacks the nerves, but it is known that when myelin is attacked, scar tissues are formed, causing communication issues between the nerves.
[ Source ]