Black and Hispanic Americans with multiple sclerosis have long been underrepresented in multiple sclerosis clinical trials, despite having higher rates of disability, more severe symptoms, and worse self-rated health scores due to the disease.
Pharmaceutical company Genentech is breaking that trend through its CHIMES study, a late-stage clinical trial to determine the effectiveness of the drug ocrelizumab on Black and Hispanic Americans living with relapsing forms of MS. About 85 percent of people with MS are initially diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS, as opposed to progressive MS.
Sold as Ocrevus, ocrelizumab was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2017 to treat MS.
Historically, Black and Hispanic Americans with MS have had limited opportunities to participate in clinical research as compared to white Americans. Out of almost 60,000 studies published about relapsing multiple sclerosis, fewer than 1 percent have related specifically to Black and Hispanic Americans.
Clinical trials like the CHIMES study can shape fields of knowledge and define what responses to different therapies are accepted as typical by health care providers. Ensuring broad representation of people from different backgrounds is important: Limiting medical studies to a single racial or ethnic group can lead to blind spots in the studies’ findings, which can have real-life implications in clinical practice. Understanding how to effectively treat someone’s MS symptoms has to start with understanding how MS affects different groups in unique ways.
With MS specifically, it’s particularly important to investigate the effects of different treatments on various populations. MS relapses are more severe in Black and Hispanic Americans. Previous research has found African ancestry to be a risk factor for faster MS disease progression and greater atrophy of the brain and spinal cord. Hispanic Americans with MS, in addition to having higher disability scores than their white counterparts, also have the highest rates of pain, depression, and anxiety of any racial group among those with MS.
Researchers for the CHIMES study are recruiting participants ages 18 to 65 who self-identify as Black or Hispanic American. All participants will receive an initial dose of ocrelizumab, as two separate infusions, via an IV. Additional doses will be given every 24 weeks for up to a total of two years.