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Friday, March 24, 2017

Ocrevus and the Hope of ‘Ending MS Forever’: Interview with MS Society’s Tim Coetzee

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Ocrevus, MS and hope

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The potential approval of Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) this month supports the idea that, someday, a world free of multiple sclerosis (MS) is possible, according to Dr. Tim Coetzee, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s chief advocacy, services and research officer.
While Coetzee — and the society he represents — realize the potential of Ocrevus to improve MS treatment, both also acknowledge that plenty of work remains to be done to reach its goal of “ending MS forever.”
Tim Coetzee
Tim Coetzee (Courtesy, National Multiple Sclerosis Society)
Meanwhile, the society is working hard to make sure that the benefits Ocrevus may offer — if approved — will reach as many people as possible.
With the date for Ocrevus’ potential approval fast approaching, Multiple Sclerosis News Today spoke to Coetzee about how the possible therapy is viewed by the MS Society, its hopes and concerns, and work beyond Ocrevus.

Cautious optimism

“The idea of a treatment being approved for primary progressive MS is huge,” Coetzee said. Still, he and the society do not want to celebrate too soon, and are only cautiously optimistic that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will approve Ocrevus on March 28.
“Of course, you always have to be prepared for the unexpected — like the three-month delay in the agency’s decision late last year, but we certainly hope that doesn’t happen,” he added.
Ocrevus has been tested in three large global clinical trials: the two OPERA I and OPERA II trials (NCT01247324 and NCT01412333) in relapsing patients, and the ORATORIO (NCT01194570) study in people with primary-progressive MS. Researchers — both those involved in the trials and those not — consider the study data impressive.
Many patients also have high hopes for the treatment. According to Coetzee, relapsing MS patients are excited about the possibility of yet another, and possibly better, disease modifying treatment to choose from. And while primary progressive patients recognize that the treatment’s effect in clinical trials was modest — it is a huge step forward compared to no available treatment at all.1

“To have any option is a critical first step to addressing the challenges of treating progressive MS,” Coetzee said, but advised restrained optimism.
So while Genentech’s Dr. Peter Chin noted that Ocrevus “has the potential to change the way MS is treated,” Coetzee underscored the importance of seeing how the drug works in wider usage.

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