Roche’s MS drug Ocrevus earns blockbuster status a year after launch


Roche’s multiple sclerosis (MS) drug Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) has claimed blockbuster status just one year after it was launched.

The drug, which Roche’s CEO Dr Severin Schwan called “the most successful launch in the history of Roche”, crossed the blockbuster threshold halfway through 2018, after being on the market for little over a year.

During the first half of this year, Ocrevus generated 1.04 billion Swiss francs – more than 90% of that was from use in the US.

The treatment for relapsing remitting and primary progressive MS is taken as an intravenous infusion every six months.

It was approved in the EU six months ago and is under appraisal by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) to determine NHS availability in the UK for the aforementioned types of MS.

The success of Ocrevus will help combat losses from Roche’s older stable of drugs, such as Herceptin and Rituxan, as cheaper biosimilar versions of these blockbusters are produced and brought to market.

The other drugs credited with boosting Roche’s impressive balance sheet during the first half of this year were its cancer treatments Perjeta, Alecensa and Tecentriq.

Perjeta (pertuzumab) is a monoclonal antibody used in combination therapy to treat metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer. It also used as a neoadjuvant treatment – administered before a patient undergoes surgery – in early HER2-positive breast cancer.

The use of Perjeta as an adjuvant – a treatment to follow surgery – led to a 27% increase in sales.

Schwan said: “In the first half of the year, both our Pharmaceuticals and Diagnostics Divisions achieved very strong results. Given the very good, continuously growing uptake of our new medicines, we are well on track to rejuvenate our portfolio. The growth of our business will continue, also beyond the current year.

“Based on the performance in the first half of the year, we are increasing the outlook for the full-year 2018 to mid-single digit sales growth, and targeting core earnings per share to grow in the mid-teen digits, at constant exchange rates.”