Elan share price holds despite PML numbers

THE number of instances of rare brain disease PML in users of Tysabri (the multiple sclerosis drug co-owned by Irish pharmaceutical company, Elan) increased by five last month.

The increase, published jointly by Elan and its US partner in the drug, Biogen, brings to 63 the total number of cases reported. Thirty five of those cases have been reported since the beginning of this year.

However, given that the number of instances still fall within the drug’s stated risk guidelines, the new numbers didn’t adversely affect Elan’s share price; which actually closed yesterday marginally up at €3.81.

“Seven months into the year, there have been 35cases reported, averaging five a month. Encouragingly, the incidence rates in those upper treatment levels, which encompass significant numbers of patients, would appear to be stabilising and/or moderating,” pointed out Ian Hunter of Goodbody Stockbrokers. “Having dipped in the previous month to 1.71 in a thousand, the incidence rate ticked up again this quarter, returning to 1.76 in a thousand (as in May) for patients that have received 24 or more infusions. In patients having received 30 or more infusions, the rate continued to moderate, slipping to 1.40 from 1.46 in June and 1.50 in May.”

Of the latest number of cases, three are based in the US with the other two in Europe. European cases of PML among users of the drug now outweigh US instances, at 34 to date.

Elan and Biogen update on PML cases on a monthly basis; meaning that yesterday’s news — while not wholly positive — was part of a rolling newsflow, rather than a sudden announcement.

In wider news for the company, Elan recently announced that it was shelving plans to spin-off its drug delivery arm, EDT, until market conditions pick up and said that it is planning to reduce its debt levels by around 20% over the coming three years.

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