Roche Holding AG’s Genentech unit has reported that the experimental drug ocrelizumab has shown promising results in three late-stage studies against multiple sclerosis. This brings great potential for treatment of the severe disease.
Two of the studies had 1,656 patients, all of whom had relapsing multiple sclerosis, the most common form of the illness. Ocrelizumab proved more effective than the most commonly prescribed drug, Rebif. According to Roche, the new drug resulted in a decline in the annual rate of relapse of key symptoms. Less than 10% of the patients reported severe side effects to the drug.
The third trial involved 732 patients with primary progressive multiple sclerosis. In this study, the drug proved more effective than the placebo in decreasing the growth of clinically disabling disease. The incident of severe adverse effects, including serious infections, was just over 20% is both groups. Researchers say that it is the first time that a drug has shown any benefit to more serious forms of multiple sclerosis in a major trial.
The full results of the study are yet to be published. Fall outs will be made available on Friday and Saturday in a meeting with the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis, in Barcelona.
2.5 million people worldwide are affected by the mysterious autoimmune disease. The disease causes the body’s immune system to attack the myelin close to the nerve cells, which are necessary to send electrical charges on to other nerve cells. The disruption of the connection can cause nerve cells to get damaged or die, resulting in a wide variety of symptoms from numbness in the limbs, to blindness and severe muscle weakness.
The severeness of disease varies between patients, being a minor inconvenience to some and a completely debilitating conditions for others. 85% of MS patients are initially diagnosed with relapsing and remitting forms of the disease with the remaining 15% being diagnosed with the progressive form of the disease. Annually 2% of patients with the relapsing form shift to the progressive form.
MS patients and advocates for the disease were particularly happy with Thursday’s statement regarding the drug. Those with the progressive form of the disease were particularly enthused, as presently they are restricted to drugs to treat the symptoms of the disease, but do nothing to address the mechanisms of the disease.