(Adds physician comment, details)
ZURICH, Jan 12 (Reuters) - The European Union approved Roche's multiple sclerosis medicine Ocrevus, one the Swiss company's key new drugs that likely neared $1 billion in revenue in its first nine months on the U.S. market.
Roche said on Friday the EU backed Ocrevus for relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis and primary progressive multiple sclerosis, a form of the neurological disease that previously was without an approved medicine.
Through September 2017, Ocrevus racked up $500 million in revenue. Roche will report full-year sales of the medicine approved last March 29 in the United States when it delivers 2017 figures on Feb. 1.
Roche Chief Executive Severin Schwan is counting on Ocrevus revenue to help offset sales declines from his big three cancer drugs Rituxan, Herceptin and Avastin that combine now for about $20 billion annually but are losing patent protection and face intense competition from rivals' cheaper copies.
"Until Ocrevus, people with primary progressive MS -- who often have to rely on a cane or wheelchair, give up work or have carers look after them -- have not had an approved treatment to slow the progression of their disease," Gavin Giovannoni, a neurology professor at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry who has worked with Roche on studying the drug, said in Roche's statement.
Ocrevus is administered every six months and costs around $65,000 per year before discounts in the United States, a price below that of Merck's Rebif. In trials, Ocrevus outperformed Rebif in relapsing MS. (Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Michael Shields)