Roche hits back at Novartis with new data for MS drug Ocrevus

Roche has hit back at Novartis’ newly-approved multiple sclerosis drug Kesimpta, with new data from its already-marketed blockbuster Ocrevus.

Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) was approved in 2017 for relapsing and primary progressive forms of MS and is seen as one of the most successful drug launches in pharma history, generating sales of $3.79 billion in 2019 with more growth predicted this year.

But Kesimpta (ofatumumab), a repurposed cancer drug approved last month by the FDA, is seen as strong competition for Ocrevus thanks to a comparatively lower price and an injector pen that allows for home administration instead of in a clinic.

However Ocrevus has the advantage as doctors may see it as a known quantity because of its strong market presence and Roche is hoping to build on this with long-term data from the phase 3b CASTING study, which focused on MS patients previously treated with other disease-modifying therapies (DMTs).

Results from the open-label phase 3b CASTING study showed 75% of patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) and suboptimal response to prior treatment had no evidence of disease activity two years after switching to Ocrevus.

The analysis also showed the proportion of patients with no disease activity remained consistently high across all measured patient subgroups, including baseline MRI activity, relapse activity, disability level, age and the number of prior DMTs.

Roche’s data showed 78% of patients treated with only one prior DMT had no disease activity, while in those treated with two previous therapies the figure was 70%.

Patients treated with Ocrevus also experienced an improvement in the majority of symptoms, as measured by a patient-reported outcome tool known as SymptoMScreen.

Roche also noted data from the ongoing CONFIDENCE real-world safety study, where an interim analysis showed a 97% treatment persistence for Ocrevus patients at 18 months, and strong adherence to infusions every six months.

The company also had long-term safety data as of January this year, representing 5,680 patients with relapsing and primary progressive disease.

Findings were presented at MSVirtual 2020, a joint meeting of the Americas Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ACTRIMS) and the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS).

Don't miss your daily pharmaphorum news.
SUBSCRIBE free here.