Roche, a Swiss pharmaceutical company, has suspended late-stage clinical trials of a biologic drug being developed to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. The drug, ocrelizumab, is a fully human monoclonal antibody against CD-20 positive lymphocytes. In plain English, it was being developed as an anti-B cell therapy similar to Rituxan (rituximab).
Johns Hopkins reported that ocrelizumab was expected to "reduce the development of drug neutralizing antibodies and infusion reactions" compared to rituximab. In theory, sounds like progress. Instead, it has been established that the safety risk associated with ocrelizumab outweighed the benefits. Roche has disclosed that several patients died from infections -- the exact number has not yet been released. For now, although testing has been suspended for rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, ocrelizumab is still being tested for relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (MS).
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