Roche's Ocrevus touts 2-year switching data in jam-packed—and growing—multiple sclerosis market

Roche's Ocrevus captured $1.1 billion in second-quarter sales, cementing its lead in MS. (Roche)

Roche's Ocrevus has seen astronomical growth to the top of the sales leaderboard in an increasingly busy multiple sclerosis market. With its biggest competitors flailing, Roche is looking to cement Ocrevus' lead, and new two-year switching data should help the cause.

After two years of treatment on Ocrevus after switching from a prior therapy, 75% of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis patients showed no symptoms of the disease, according to data from an open-label trial released Friday. 

Patients in the phase 3 Casting study were treated with a twice-yearly dose of Ocrevus after switching off up to two prior disease modifying therapies taken for at least six months, Roche said.

The disease-stopping results were consistent across patients who had been treated with either one or two prior therapies. For patients who had taken only one prior therapy, 78% saw no disease activity at the two-year mark, compared with 70% of patients who had previously taken two therapies. 

Roche's newest data on Ocrevus could go a long way in cementing the drug's sales lead in a bustling multiple sclerosis market that keeps adding challengers to the fold.

RELATED: Novartis gets a green light to challenge Roche, Sanofi with delayed MS med Kesimpta

Despite a COVID-19 slowdown in the second quarter, Ocrevus posted $1.1 billion in sales at 12% growth clip, making it the highest-selling drug in MS.

Biogen's long-time sales leader Tecfidera raked in $913 million on the quarter, and Novartis' aging Gilenya brought in $738 million.

But while Ocrevus' star is rising, those two competitors are facing tough times as the MS market grows. In June, a federal judge ruled Tecfidera's underlying patents invalid, putting a generic challenger from Mylan on deck and jeopardizing billions in sales. Meanwhile, the FDA approved a trio of generics for Gilenya in December despite Novartis fighting tooth-and-nail to protect its sales star.

It's not just copycats packing the field, though. Last month, Novartis, looking to keep pace with Roche, secured a delayed FDA nod for Kesimpta, which like Ocrevus targets CD20-expressing B cells. Bristol Myers Squibb's Zeposia—part of an S1P modulator group that also includes Gilenya and 2019 Novartis launch Mayzentrolled out in June.

RELATED: Roche suffers double whammy as biosimilars, COVID-19 joined hands in weak quarter

Ocrevus' success is a big deal for Roche at a time when the Swiss drugmaker is facing biosimilar challengers to its trio of blockbuster oncology meds all at once.

The group of Avastin, Herceptin and Rituxan all saw U.S. biosims hit the market in 2019, and the early results haven't been pretty. In the second quarter, Avastin sales dropped 39% at unchanged exchange rates to $518 million and Rituxan slid 33% to $792 million. Herceptin also plummeted by 46%, to $410 million.