MS drugs boost Biogen Q2 results

By Emilie Reymond

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Biogen idec, Multiple sclerosis

Biogen Idec has announced healthy financial results for the second
quarter of the year, boosted by high sales of its three leading
drugs.

The Massachusetts-based firm posted a $206m (€149m) operating income for the quarter ended 30 June 2007, compared to a $122m loss in the same quarter last year. This major improvement was due to the $300m charges included the second quarter of 2006, that were related to the acquisitions of Conforma Therapeutics and Fumapharm. In addition, the biotech company's revenue jumped 17 per cent to $773m, driven by strong sales growth for its Avonex (interferon beta-1a), Rituxan (rituximab) and Tysabri (natalizumab) drugs. Avonex sales increased 8 per cent to $462m, Rituxan revenues increased 12 per cent to $231m, and global sales of Tysabri - a treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS) that Biogen co-markets with Elan - totalled $72m in the period, of which $48m goes to Biogen. Rituxan is a treatment for certain B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphomas (NHL) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) that Biogen co-promotes in the US with Genentech while Avonex is a therapy for patients with relapsing forms of MS. The company said it was "quite pleased" with its second quarter performance, and raised its financial forecast for the full year. "Fueled by the strong uptake of TYSABRI, we hit a new corporate milestone as our MS franchise exceeded $500m in quarterly revenue for the first time in Biogen Idec's history,"​ said James Mullen, Biogen Idec's CEO. Tysabri back on track ​Tysabri seems to be back on track after having suffered a number of setbacks since its launch three years ago. Tysabri was withdrawn from the market three months after its approval in 2004 after reports of three trial volunteers developing progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML), a progressive and frequently fatal condition. But the drug was reintroduced to the US market in June last year as a monotherapy for relapsing forms of MS and at the same time it was approved by the European regulator as a single disease modifying therapy in highly active relapsing remitting MS. As of mid-July 2007, around 14,000 patients are on TYSABRI therapy worldwide in the commercial and clinical trials settings, the company said, a substantial increase from 9,000 patients receiving the treatment in April. An FDA advisory panel is expected to discuss next week whether to recommend approval for the compound in the treatment of Crohn's disease, after a European regulator's committee recommended against approval of the drug for this indication earlier this month. Getting the drug approved for a new indication such as Crohn's disease - which affects around one million people worldwide - could therefore give Tysabri a boost in terms of sales. Tysabri is a humanised monoclonal antibody (mAb) alpha-4 antagonist indicated as a single disease modifying therapy in highly active relapsing remitting MS for patients with high disease activity despite treatment with a beta-interferon or in patients with rapidly evolving severe relapsing remitting MS. Meanwhile the company said it successfully completed its $3bn share repurchase during the quarter. Biogen announced last May its plans to hold a "Dutch Auction" to repurchase around 57m shares of its common stock at a price of $53 per share and the auction was completed on 2 July. These shares represented approximately 16.4 per cent of its outstanding shares. The repurchase was funded by approximately equal parts cash and debt.

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