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Roche's MS Drug Ocrelizumab Shows Promising Results After Late Stage Trials

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Roche has just announced that their new drug, Ocrelizumab, has performed well in its late-stage studies to treat multiple sclerosis (MS).
The company's Genentech unit said that Ocrelizumab worked well during its three staged studies on its effectiveness in treating the disease on more than 1,600 MS patients. Roche believes that this success marks a new milestone in transforming the treatment process of MS.

"Ocrelizumab is the first investigational medicine to significantly reduce disability progression in people with relapsing MS and people with primary progressive MS," said Dr. Sandra Horning, Roche's Chief Medical Officer and Head of Global Product Development.

The new drug proved more effective in treating relapsing MS symptoms compared to the most commonly prescribed drug, Rebif.

During the first two tests, it was able to reduce the annual rate of symptom relapse and less than 10 percent of its users complained of serious side effects.

The drug was also proven to be more effective at reducing clinical progression of primary progressive MS than a placebo during the third clinical trial. The rate for adverse reactions, including serious ones, was around 20 percent.

"These findings may...encourage the MS community to look more closely at earlier treatment of the disease," said Dr. Stephen Hauser of the Department of Neurology at the University of California School of Medicine. "Patients and their doctors need new treatment options that offer the potential for greater efficacy than a standard-of-care interferon with a similar safety profile."

Roche has yet to release the official findings though they aim to do so within the week. They are also planning to gain regulatory approval and marketing release for Ocrelizumab by 2016.

MS is a neurodegenerative condition that affects more than 2 million people around the world. Because of the destruction of nerve fibers by the immune system, it disrupts signal transmission between the body and the brain. Symptoms of MS include weakness, fatigue and even paralysis.

Treatment goals for MS include relieving symptoms and delaying disease progression, but due to safety concerns, most doctors tend to delay medication use until later in the disease's course.

With Ocrelizumab, there is hope that MS can be treated effectively even during the early stages of the disease. Roche is excited over the prospect of making this revolutionary treatment and the knowledge gained from their findings available for patients and the healthcare community.

Once approved, Ocrelizumab will be sold as an intravenous drug to be delivered twice annually.

Photo: Tim Samoff | Flickr

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