Ocrevus Approval: A Quick Cheat Sheet

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.

MORE: Find out 5 things to know about the new MS drug OCREVUS.

Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

13 comments

  1. Ken says:

    It would be nice if they released the subgroup data from the clinical trials to determine differences in effectiveness by age, disability, gender, etc. It would also be informative to know the results of the expanded access results from those that were started the drug after the clinical trial but before FDA approval. Do those results mirror the trial results? One issue with the trials was the age of participants. There was no testing on older PPMS patients. The biggest concern in my mind is the cancer that was twice the level for participants verses the placebo group. Will that risk increase or decrease over time?

    • David S says:

      Ken it seems you are already ahead of me. May I ask where you found the info on the age of the patients and the cancer risk?

      • alida says:

        yes, it does help to see numbers because a cancer rate that is “twice as high” still might actually represent a very low cancer risk. For instance, there could have been 2/800 people in the placebo group that developed breast cancer vs 4/800 in the treatment group. That is a cancer risk that is “twice is high” but it’s not an actually an enormous jump in the overall risk for developing cancer when you look at the percentages. I just made these numbers up, but typically cancer numbers in trials like this are very low and so I very much doubt that the breast cancer risk is that much elevated.

  2. Gail Petenko says:

    I understand that Ocrevus is approved for adults with PPMS; however, is there a maximum age after which the drug is no longer recommended or approved for?

  3. Steve Kavanagh says:

    We have been 15 years sliding down the slippery ppms slope and I wonder if their would be some sort of asssessment criteria to determine suitability of the treatment ie based on say stage of progression and then fundamentally whether by extension, slowing or halting progression then allows the body and myelin to repair. As Ken suggested it would be good to have more data.

  4. Mama Jeannie Lansman says:

    Have my son in hospital for a severe deterioration flare of his PPMS. He has been taking Rebif for about 4 years but feel it has quit helping. PRAYING his new MS Specialist will try Ocrevus right now while he is inpatient!! My son is only 41 and needs something positive in his life!! Family Services have taken his daughter away saying he isn’t able to care for her due to his MS, and they won’t even let him see her!

  5. Sandra says:

    This is wonderful news. .I have only been recently diagnosed with ppms. .I welcome this new drug..I live in Ireland and I hope it will be made available here very soon. ..

  6. NICK BUCCINA says:

    GOOD NEWS ON THIS DRUG! CAN ANYONE TELL ME IF THIS DRUG WILL HAVE ANY “POSITIVE” EFFECT FOR SOMEONE WHO STARTED WITH RRMS. IN 1992 AND NOW HAS TURNED INTO SPMS.?

    • Lisa says:

      Yes I would like to know that to. They don’t mention SPMS. I was diagnosed in 2004 with RRM. My first signs of MS was in 1993. I now have SPMS.

  7. Kenneth says:

    Very useful information here! I’m actually part of a study based in New York for patients who have had their second infusion of Ocrevus. These studies are actually getting the information from specific demographic groups, and I’m being paid $200!!!

  8. Bert says:

    I was diagnosed nearly 40 years ago with RRMS. Now I am 69 and they are telling me that my condition is becoming Progressive. I am just finished a course of MRIs. I will be meeting my Neurologist next week to review the results. Will will discuss the option of this infusion therapy. Hopefully, considering that what I’m taking now may not be working, this would be a positive alternative.

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