Biogen profits up but MS drug sales slow

BIOGEN Idec Inc reported second-quarter earnings that topped expectations yesterday but sales of its key multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri were lower than expected, pushing the company’s shares down as much as 2.7%.

Global sales of Tysabri, which Biogen co-markets with Irish drugmaker Elan Corp Plc, rose to $298 million (€231m) from $254m a year ago, but analysts had on average expected Tysabri sales of about $307m.

Tysabri was temporarily withdrawn from the market in 2005 after being linked with a potentially deadly brain infection known as PML. It was reintroduced in 2006 with stricter safety warnings, but physicians are closely monitoring the number of new cases of PML reported each month.

As of July 2, 58 cases of PML had been reported. Of those, 12 patients died and 46 are still alive with varying degrees of disability.

The company said that as of June 30, about 52,700 patients were taking Tysabri, up from some 50,300 patients as of the end of March. That translates into an average of 185 net new patients a week, up from 135 to 140 net new patients in the first quarter.

Despite the increase in the weekly number of new patients, sales were disappointing, something Paul Clancy, the company’s chief financial officer, said was due to the mechanics of how the company distributes the drug to partner Elan. Sales were also negatively affected by foreign exchange, he said in an interview.


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