The new MS treatment Ocrevus is showing a dramatic reduction in active relapses. But what about the rest of us?
Last year my neurologist excitedly told me that a new drug was due to be approved by the FDA in early 2017. So this year, Ocrevus was introduced to the market and I began to read glowing accounts by healthcare providers of how dramatically it cut relapse rates in RRMS, SPMS with active relapse activity, and even PPMS.
The treatment, which depletes a certain type of B-cell, is a close relative of the cancer drug Rituxan (rituximab), but developed from human tissue instead of mouse. Opinions seem to be that it works really well on versions of the disease with active relapses.
What About Me?
That sounds great! I mean, yay, right? But what about SPMSers in the progressive phase of the disease who no longer experience relapses? Like me. It turns out "(w)hether secondary-progressive patients without relapses would benefit from the treatment has not been studied."
Has not been studied?? I hope that instead means there is not yet an immediate way, like relapse rate, by which to gauge positive results in this type of disease. That it will take longer to see changes in disability progression or a slowing of brain shrinkage, for example. I. mean. please.
Then there are the reports about an odd smattering of breast cancer in the treated group of the clinical trial not replicated in the placebo group which could just be a weird coincidence. Scientists are hoping a larger pool of users will prove it was in fact unrelated.
Also, an MSer taking Ocrevus did recently develop the rare brain infection PML (multifocal leukoencephalopathy). But since he was coming off 3 previous years on Tysabri, one of the MS treatments [along with Gilenya (fingolimod), and Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate)] linked to PML, the incident was reported as due to Tysabri. Genentech/Roche is currently investigating.
This underscores the necessity of standardizing the advice neurologists give patients on managing a transition to Ocrevus from other treatments. This might require more research as "a switch in treatments was (apparently) not evaluated in the trials."
It sounds to me like still more time and research is needed.