#AAN2018 — Ocrevus Lowers Immune Response to Vaccines in Relapsing MS, Phase 3 Trial Shows

Treatment with Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) is linked to a reduced immune response to vaccinations in patients with relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a Phase 3 trial. These results were recently presented at the 2018 American Academy of Neurology (AAN) Annual Meeting in Los Angeles in a presentation titled, “Effect of Ocrelizumab on Vaccine Responses in Patients With Multiple Sclerosis.” Genentech’s Ocrevus is an approved MS therapy that targets the CD20 protein located on the surface of B-cells, targeting the cells for destruction. B-cells are immune system cells involved, for example, in the production of antibodies necessary to fight off infection. At the AAN meeting, researchers reported that in MS patients, treatment with Ocrevus decreased the ability of B-cells to activate other immune cells, improving the rate of MS attacks. Penn Medicine neurologist Amit Bar-Or, MD, presented these findings, which showed that interactions between different classes of immune cells, such as B- and T-cells, promote MS attacks. Vaccination against infections is an important part of the management of patients with MS. So, in a second study (NCT02545868), researchers investigated the impact treatment with Ocrevus has on patient response to vaccines. They recruited 102 patients with relapsing MS and randomized them in two groups. In group A, 68 people received a single dose of 600 mg Ocrevus (administered into the blood); in group B, 34 patients received no disease-modifying therapy or interferon-beta. All patients were then administered vaccines for tetanus, seasonal flu, and pneumococcus. Patients in group A received the vaccines 12 weeks after they were treated with Ocrevus, while group B patients received the vaccines on day one. Researchers also tested patients’ response to a novel protein (an antigen) never "seen" by their immune system, called keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH) neoantigen. The vaccinations led to an immune system response in all patients, but the level of response in patients treated with Ocrevus was lower. A positive response to the tetanus vaccine at eight weeks after treatment was 23.9% in group A (Ocrevus) compared with 54.5% in group B (no treatment); the response to pneumococcus vaccination was 71.6% in group A and 100% in group B. After four weeks of treatment, the levels of antibodies against the different strains of the flu virus were lower in Ocrevus-treated patients than in the control group, ranging from 55.6% to 80.0% in the Ocrevus group compared with 75.0% to 97.0% in the controls. The immune response to the neoantigen KLH was also decreased in the Ocrevus group. "This study shows that while people with MS treated with ocrelizumab [Ocrevus] can still mount vaccine responses, it's not nearly as strong as prior to treatment," Bar-Or said in a press release. "While antibody responses were reduced in the ocrelizumab treated patients, they still responded to a certain level," he said. "This is valuable information in terms of seasonal vaccines such as the flu — it appears safe for patients taking ocrelizumab to get vaccinated and vaccination is likely to provide them with at least some protection from such infections." These findings correlate with standard guidelines that advise patients to undergo vaccinations six weeks before they start treatment with Ocrevus.

#AAN2018 – Switching from Rebif to Ocrevus Improves MS, Extension Study Shows

Continuous treatment with Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) or switching from Rebif (interferon beta-1a) to Ocrevus leads to a significant long-term reduction in relapsing multiple sclerosis activity, a two-year extension study shows. Ocrevus’s maker, Genentech, drew the results from an open-label extension of the Phase 3 OPERA trials. Researchers will present the findings at…

#AAN2018 – Ocrevus Decreases Biomarkers of MS Patients’ Nerve Cell Damage, Phase 3 Trial Shows

Genentech’s Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) reduces levels of cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers that denote nerve cell damage in multiple sclerosis patients, a Phase 3 clinical trial shows. Researchers will present the results at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in Los Angeles, April 21-27. The presentation will be titled “Interim Analysis of the…

5 MS Patients Across US Talk About How Ocrevus Has Changed Their Lives

It’s been a little over a year since U.S. regulators approved Genentech’s Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) as the first treatment for both relapsing and progressive forms of multiple sclerosis (MS) — a disabling neurological disease now believed to affect nearly one million Americans. While the jury’s still out regarding the therapy’s…

Ocrevus a Year After Approval: Views of Some MS Experts

A year after U.S. regulators approved Genentech’s Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) as the first treatment for both the relapsing and progressive forms of multiple sclerosis, a prominent neurologist involved in the Phase 3 clinical trials that led to its authorization says it has been beneficial for some MS patients. But it’s simply…

What’s Hot and What’s Not Among MS Therapies?

The newest kids on the MS block, disease-modifying therapies (DMT) such as Genentech’s Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) and Sanofi Genzyme’s Lemtrada (alemtuzumab), are attracting a lot of interest these days. But, some DMTs that have been around for more than two decades are still being prescribed by a lot of neurologists.

New Ocrevus Data, Post-FDA Approval, Supports Range of Benefits, Genentech’s Hideki Garren Says

Ocrevus (ocrelizumab), Genentech’s humanized anti-CD20 monoclonal antibody, continues to show clear evidence that it helps to slow disease progression and enable better function — including in the hands and limbs — of relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS) and primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS), latest data reveals. The first FDA-approved therapy — in March…

#ACTRIMS2018 – Relapsing MS Patients With Impaired Vision Improved on Ocrevus, Updated Trial Data Show

Ocrevus improved vision among relapsing multiple sclerosis patients who participated in the Phase 3 clinical trials of the treatment, according to updated analyses recently presented at the ACTRIMS Forum 2018. While Ocrevus-treated patients improved their ability to read low-contrast letters over the course of the two trials, people who received Rebif (interferon beta-1a) did not. Laura J. Balcer, a neurologist at New York University Langone Medical Center, shared the data in a presentation titled, “Effect of Ocrelizumab on Visual Outcomes in Patients with Baseline Visual Impairment in the OPERA Studies in Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis.” Balcer had earlier shared data on the visual outcomes of relapsing patients in the OPERA I and OPERA II Phase 3 clinical trials of Ocrevus at the 7th Joint ECTRIMS-ACTRIMS Meeting in Paris, last year. The two studies — sponsored by Ocrevus developer Genentech, a member of the Roche group —  compared Ocrevus and Rebif in patients with relapsing MS. This time, her presentation focused only on patients who had visual impairment when they enrolled in the trials. Among a total of 1,656 participants, 375 of those treated with Ocrevus and 373 in the Rebif group had visual impairment. Researchers tested vision using a low-contrast letter acuity test. The test is similar to an ordinary vision test, with letters of different sizes on a chart. But the low-contrast test uses gray letters — instead of black — on a white background. Researchers included charts with two shades of gray to test different contrast levels. These tests can detect reduced visual function. At the beginning of the trials, both groups performed in a similar manner — correctly identifying about 35 letters on a chart with somewhat higher contrast. After 96 weeks, those receiving Ocrevus identified on average 3.4 more letters, while Rebif-treated patients worsened by 0.5 letters — a significant difference, Balcer said. Researchers tested vision every 12 weeks. At the end of the trials, they found that 39 percent more patients in the Ocrevus groups had a cumulative improvement of at least 10 letters, compared to those treated with Rebif. At this time, 26.4 percent of Ocrevus-treated patients improved 10 letters or more, compared to 19.8 percent in the Rebif group. The difference between the groups for at least seven letters was 54 percent, with Ocrevus-treated patients performing better. Researchers believe that a seven-letter change is the minimal clinically important difference for the test. Based on the results, researchers believe that the findings demonstrate Ocrevus’ ability to reverse visual impairment in relapsing MS. The ACTRIMS Forum 2018 is being held in San Diego, California, Feb. 1–3.

European Commission Approves Ocrevus to Treat RRMS, PPMS Throughout EU

The European Commission has approved Roche’s Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) for both relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) and primary-progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS) across the 28-member European Union. The commission’s move —  nearly 10 months after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Ocrevus in March 2017 — makes it the first approved PPMS…

My Ocrevus Treatments: The Next Round Is Delayed

  By now, I had planned to give you an update on my current multiple sclerosis disease-modifying therapy Ocrevus (ocrelizumab). But one thing living with multiple sclerosis teaches us is to not count on plans always working out as we had hoped. Timing really is everything…

Top 10 Multiple Sclerosis Articles of 2017

Multiple Sclerosis News Today brought you daily coverage of important discoveries, treatment developments, clinical trials, and other events dealing with multiple sclerosis throughout 2017. We look forward to providing more news to MS patients, family members, and caregivers during 2018. As a reminder of what mattered most to you in…

European Neurologists Ready to Use Both Mavenclad and Ocrevus, Survey Shows

Mavenclad has become the multiple sclerosis therapy of choice for one in five neurologists in Germany and the United Kingdom, according to a Spherix Global Insights survey. Meanwhile, many European neurologists are looking forward to the continent's approval of Ocrevus, particularly as a treatment for primary progressive multiple sclerosis, or PPMS. The United States approved the therapy in March of 2017. European neurologists are using Mavenclad for both relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, or RRMS, and secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, SPMS. 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. Patients who had been on previous treatments have switched mainly from Copaxone (glatiramer acetate), interferons, or Novartis' Gilenya, the report showed. 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.

Europe’s CHMP Urges Approval of Ocrevus in EU to Treat Relapsing, Primary Progressive MS

Europeans with relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS) and early primary progressive MS are one step closer to accessing Ocrevus, now that the European Medicines Agency has urged the European Union to approve the therapy. The positive opinion — announced in a press release issued Nov. 10 by the EMA’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use — is an intermediary step required in the regulatory pathway to allow patient access to a new drug. The European Commission will now make a final decision on whether Ocrevus should be granted marketing authorization in all 28 EU member states. This decision will take the CHMP recommendation into consideration. If approved, Ocrevus will become the first disease-modifying medicine available throughout Europe for patients with PPMS. Once this happens, any decisions on price or insurance reimbursements will be the responsibility of each member state. Ocrevus won U.S. approval earlier this year. It was also recently approved in Switzerland for both relapsing MS and PPMS. Ocrevus is an anti-CD20 antibody developed by Genentech, a division of Roche. It blocks immune B-cells, preventing them from attacking nerve cells and their myelin protective sheath, as well as inhibiting other pro-inflammatory immune signals involved in MS. CHMP based its positive recommendation on data from three pivotal Phase 3 clinical trials: the OPERA I and II trials in relapsing MS patients, and the ORATORIO trial in PPMS patients. Results from the OPERA clinical studies demonstrated that treatment with Ocrevus for up to 96 weeks could reduce the annualized relapse rate by 46.4 percent compared with EMD Serono’s approved drug Rebif (interferon beta-1a) in relapsing MS patients. The ORATORIO trial showed that Ocrevus could reduce by 24 percent the risk of 12-week confirmed disability progression compared to placebo in PPMS patients. Data from the trial further supported the drug's therapeutic benefit in early-stage PPMS patients. Additional studies are warranted to better evaluate the therapeutic potential of Ocrevus for patients with more advanced stages of the disease. The most common treatment-associated adverse effects reported wee infusion-related reactions and infections.

Ocrevus Q&A, Part 2

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series on readers’ comments about Ocrevus (ocrelizumab). Read part one here. Last week, I responded to a few comments on columns regarding my personal experience with Ocrevus (ocrelizumab). Here are more reader comments and my answers.

Ocrevus Q&A, Part 1

Editor’s Note: First in a two-part series on readers’ comments about Ocrevus (ocrelizumab). I switched disease-modifying therapies and began treatment with Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) in June. I previously wrote about my reasons for switching, my experiences with the first two doses, and more recently, about any…