Meanwhile, many European neurologists are looking forward to the continent’s approval of Ocrevus (ocrelizumab), particularly as a treatment for primary progressive multiple sclerosis, or PPMS. The United States approved the therapy in March of 2017.
The report that Spherix issued on European neurologists’ treatment choices is called “RealTime Dynamix: Multiple Sclerosis EU.” It was based on a survey of 261 neurologists, who were asked about thei disease-modifying drugs they prescribed and the way they manage MS, according to a press release.
The survey focused on Merck KGaA’s Mavenclad, which the European Union approved in August 2017, and Genentech’s Ocrevus, which the European Commission is expected to approve soon. The European Medicines Agency paved the way for approval by recommending its authorization earlier this month.
Mavenclad is the first disease-modifying therapy that most of the patients who are on it have tried, according to the survey. Spherix analysts said this indicates that Mavenclad may expand the proportion of MS patients using disease-modifying drugs.
But while Mavenclad’s label allows patients to use it as a first-line therapy, the survey revealed that many neurologists are not comfortable prescribing it as an initial treatment. This suggests that the Mavenclad-treated population may later include more patients who switched treatments, Spherix said.
Mavenclad reduces MS relapses by resetting the immune system, studies have shown.
Neurologists who prescribe it as a first-line treatment appear to endorse the idea of induction therapy. This approach involves more potent therapies being used from the onset of the disease. British neurologists in particular appear to favor the induction approach, the report revealed.
Many neurologists’ lack of familiarity with Mavenclad may be limiting its use, the report said. It noted that two out of five neurologists had not received a detailed briefing on the drug, and more than one-third had not attended any launch activities. Limited market access was the second most common obstacle to Mavenclad prescription, the report indicated.
Interestingly, those who had participated in Mavenclad launch activities said these consisted mostly of independent research or discussions with colleagues, rather than activities organized by Mavenclad’s developer Merck KGaA.
Spherix’s survey was done just before the European Medicines Agency recommended Ocrevus’ approval in mid-November. Even before the endorsement, the survey indicated, Ocrevus was by far the MS drug in development that most neurologists looked forward to using.
The reasons, the neurologists said, were its beneficial effectiveness-safety profile, its new mechanism of action, the fact that it only needs to be given once every six months, and a treatment label that includes PPMS. It is the first disease-modifying drug ever approved for PPMS patients.
Twice as many neurologists said they look forward to using Ocrevus as a first-line treatment for PPMS as those saying they wanted to use it as a first-line treatment for relapsing MS. And neurologists estimated that twice as many PPMS patients as RRMS patients are appropriate candidates for Ocrevus treatment.
In a report in October about U.S. neurologists’ treatment preferences, Spherix said those doctors estimated the number of PPMS Ocrevus candidates at three times that of RRMS patients. Nonetheless, about equally as many PPMS and RRMS patients had tried Ocrevus four months after its launch, the survey showed.
The European situation may evolve in a similar manner, since the European Medicines Agency recommended a specific use of Ocrevus in PPMS patients. It specified that the drug be used in PPMS patients who show “imaging features characteristic of inflammatory activity.” This makes it likely that only a subgroup of PPMS patients will receive the treatment.
The use of Biogen‘s Tysabri, Gilenya, and Rituxan (rituximab), also made by Roche’s Genentech subdivision, will be most impacted by Ocrevus’ introduction. Despite this, neurologists believe rituximab’s use will grow in the next six months, because Ocrevus is still not available, while lower-cost rituximab biosimilars are.