New Drug Drastically Reduces Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms In Phase III Trial


Summary generated on August 10, 2020

    A large-scale trial of the drug ofatumumab has found it dramatically outperforms existing treatments for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.

    In the latter part of the study attacks almost disappeared, raising the possibility the drug may offer long-term elimination of the disease for many.

    Like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis is an auto-immune disease where the body's natural defenses turn on the organs they are supposed to be protecting, attacking them instead. This has inspired Novartis Pharma and the University of California San Francisco to test the drug against RRMS. In the New England Journal of Medicine, they claim unprecedented success.

    More than 900 patients were injected with ofatumumab monthly for an average of 19 months.

    Across a range of measures, ofatumumab comprehensively outperformed teriflunomide, a widely prescribed MS pill used as a double-blinded control.

    Those on ofatumumab suffered half as many relapses and ninety percent reported no attacks after the first year of treatment, raising hopes that for many the new drug could mean an end to this condition.

    Slightly more of the patients were in better health after six months on ofatumumab than were worse - a remarkable achievement for a degenerative disease.

    There is no doubt that ofatumumab carries substantial downsides.

    Hauser has long argued that taming B cells is the key to treating MS. Four years ago, Hauser played a similar role in a study of the B-cell targeting drug ocrelizumab against PPMS. The trial revealed ocrelizumab can slow the disease's progress but not halt, let alone reverse, it.

    Novartis is seeking approval to do the same with ofatumumab but to the many more people with RRMS, and hopefully with even greater benefits.