I decided to go a little honest about our pharmaceutical world of MS. There has been so much press and promise over this new drug coming out for multiple sclerosis. Put Ocrelizumab in your web search and you’ll get article after article about the promise of this new drug.
Rituximab is Ocrelizumab
The patent on Rituximab expired in the US in 2015. Basically when they were doing the clinical trials with multiple sclerosis by the time they were up to phase III the patent would have expired.
No patent=no profit.
So Genetech started inventing a new drug. The biggest difference is that Rituximab is a chimeric antibody, a genetically engineered antibody. Ocrelizumab is a humanized antibody, antibodies from non-human species, whose protein sequences have been modified to be similar to those found naturally in humans. Otherwise Ocrelizumab is basically the child to Rituximab. Being that Ocrelizumab is humanized antibody, the hope was improved safety and reduced infusion reactions. What actually happened is it turned out that Ocrelizumab was LESS safe. In 2010 trials on Ocrelizumab for Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis had to be abandoned because of an unacceptable number of serious and sometimes fatal infections. Ocrelizumab is almost identical to that of Rituximab (except for the way the antibodies are created, chimeric versus humanized) which has been used for decades to treat cancers of the blood and for 7-8 years off label basis for treating multiple sclerosis. Rituximab is pretty safe, a good drug therapy, and has a large data history and experience. It isn’t cleared for multiple sclerosis use because of pharmaceutical profit lines not seeing it to the phase III clinical trial. Therefore some insurance companies will DENY the use of the safer Rituximab but approve the still to see Ocrelizumab when it actually is released. THEY ARE BASICALLY THE SAME DRUG. However FDA can’t approve Rituximab for multiple sclerosis without phase III. No phase III because of $$$$$$$$$$. We the patients are left with the choice what do we do, what can we do?
I was denied by my insurance for Rituximab and denied 2 appeals and even took the appeal to the state level and was denied (I have state insurance). I finally got into the patient assistance program from Genetech and am able to receive Rituximab (pays to be poor). However this was also because Ocrelizumab was not out yet. It was supposed to be released January 2017 but was once again push back. There is a very good possible I may have to go to the Ocrelizumab which my insurance would pick up, because it was FDA approved for multiple sclerosis, but if prefer to stay with Rituximab. I’d rather be on a drug that there is a well known history on, not one pulled from the shelf many times. Anyway just wanted the truth out there, I’m tired of seeing these promised articles everywhere when this drug really isn’t “NEW”.