The multiple sclerosis (MS) community has been busy talking about the recently FDA-approved drug Ocrevus (ocrelizumab). It’s been proven to slow down the progression of the disease, but what else do we know about this much buzzed-about drug? Here are some quick facts about Ocrevus according to the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
When it was approved: March 28. Ocrevus is a drug used for the treatment of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) and the first treatment available for primary-progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS).
How it’s taken: The drug is to be taken via an IV infusion every six months. The first dose is given in two stages a fortnight apart.
Who can take it: Ocrevus has not been tested on children and is only for the treatment of adults with PPMS and RRMS.
How it works: Ocrevus targets certain B-cells in the blood which are responsible for demyelination.
How do we know? Clinical trials with PPMS patients showed that those taking the drug experienced a 24 percent reduction in disease progression and a decrease in a number of brain lesions. Clinical trials with RRMS patients showed a 47 percent decrease in relapses compared to patients taking Rebif and up to 95 percent reduction in active inflammation.
How much it’ll cost: The yearly cost of Ocrevus treatment will be $65,000, which patients should be able to get covered by their medical insurance.
The side effects: Side effects of Ocrevus infusions include itching, rashes, facial flushing, fever, and headaches. These are more likely to occur with the first infusion and symptoms usually present within the first 24 hours. Patients will be given an antihistamine and steroid before infusion and monitored for an hour afterward.
The risks: Risks involved with Ocrevus include an increased risk of infections, herpes, cancer – in particular, breast cancer, progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), and hepatitis B virus reactivation.
The prep: Patients should be screened for hepatitis B prior to treatment. Patients should also undergo regular breast cancer screenings if they start Ocrevus treatment.
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