FDA Approves Groundbreaking Multiple Sclerosis Drug


Those suffering with multiple sclerosis received positive news after the Food and Drug Administration approved the first drug to treat a severe form of M.S.

The New York Times reported that the drug, produced by Genentech, will be sold under the brand name Ocrevus. Trials showed that it appeared to halt progression of the disease and carried very few side effects. Although benefits were more moderate in those with primary progressive multiple sclerosis, the most severe form of the drug, medical experts have still praised it as a groundbreaking and important first step.

Ocrevus was show to deplete a specific type of B cell part of the immune system that normally helps fight off infections, but in people with M.S., may actually contribute to central nervous system damage.

“I think that this is a very big deal,” said Dr. Stephen Hauser, the chairman of the neurology department at the University of California, San Francisco, and leader of the steering committee that oversaw the late-stage clinical trials of the drug, ocrelizumab. “The magnitude of the benefits that we’ve seen with ocrelizumab in all forms of M.S. are really quite stunning.”

An estimated 400,000 people have multiple sclerosis in the United States, and about 15 percent have the primary progressive form of the disease.

The drug isn’t cheap, though, and comes with a price tag of $65,000 per year. However, it’s still $21,000 less annually than an existing M.S. drug called Rebif, which was shown to be clinically inferior.

“We feel that the industry needs to start to reverse this trend, and believe that pricing Ocrevus 25 percent less than the comparator in our trials is an important first step,” said Genentech in a statement.