Photo: infusion bag and monitor

Shorter infusion time for ocrelizumab

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved a shorter 2 hour infusion time for people taking ocrelizumab (Ocrevus). The new guidance applies to people taking ocrelizumab for relapsing MS and primary progressive MS.

People taking ocrelizumab will still have 2 doses a year, but the infusion can now be done over 2 hours instead of 3.5.

The EMA’s decision is based on the ‘ENSEMBLE PLUS’ study, which involved over 500 people taking ocrelizumab. The study showed there was a comparable effect between people on a 2 hour infusion, and those on the conventional 3.5 hour infusion.

What is ocrelizumab (Ocrevus)?

Ocrelizumab is the first disease modifying therapy (DMT) that can treat relapsing MS and early primary progressive MS. Since early 2020 the drug has been recommended for use on the NHS in all the nations of the UK to treat both relapsing MS and early primary progressive MS.

Infusions for ocrelizumab take place in a hospital. After the infusion you are monitored for 1 hour.

Can I take ocrelizumab during COVID-19?

Ocrelizumab (Ocrevus) is a highly effective treatment for MS but can also moderately increase your risk of viral infection. Given the risk of catching COVID-19 at the present time, it is recommended that infusions are administered in a part of the hospital with low risk of infection.

For relapsing MS, if your local risk of COVID-19 infection is low, medical experts say it’s reasonably safe to use. If the risk is high, it should be used cautiously.

For primary progressive MS, ocrelizumab is only recommended if the local risk of infection is low. This is because there are often higher risks from COVID-19 for people with primary progressive MS, like more advanced disability or other health conditions as well as MS.

Read our latest advice for taking DMTs during COVID-19 pandemic

Welcome news for our community

Our Head of Campaigns and External Relations Jonathan Blades said:

"This decision will come as really welcome news to people who are eligible for ocrelizumab. A shorter infusion time will mean a better, more convenient experience for anyone taking this treatment, but it could also save valuable time for our health service, which we know is already overstretched.

“While this is undoubtedly positive news, it’s essential that any decision around MS treatment at the moment is made alongside expert guidance on coronavirus. Ocrelizumab may moderately increase your risk, and so should be administered where there is minimal chance of infection from COVID-19.”