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Biogen Idec Q2 profits rise on strong Avonex sales

Patient-friendly injection device helps boost sales of MS treatment

Second-quarter earnings at US biopharma company Biogen Idec rose 34 per cent on the back of strong sales of its multiple sclerosis product Avonex, thanks in part to the popularity of a new patient-friendly injection device.

Net income came in at $387m on sales up 18 per cent to $1.8bn, said the company, which has raised its 2012 earnings forecast to $6.20-plus from above $6.15 per share.

Avonex (interferon beta-1a) sales rose 16 per cent to reach $762m, with the introduction of the Avonex Pen autoinjector and a new titration dosing regimen in the US "driving renewed physician interest in one of the world's most trusted MS therapies," according to Biogen Idec's chief executive George Scangos.

Tysabri (natalizumab), Biogen Idec's other MS drug, did not fare quite so well with sales effectively flat at $395m, shy of analyst expectations, with $280m of that total booked by Biogen Idec under the terms of its marketing arrangement with  Elan.

Arthritis and cancer drug Rituxan (rituximab) did better than expected, with revenues for Biogen Idec's partnership with Roche/Genentech adding $285m to the biopharma company's coffers.

"At the midpoint of a pivotal year, we continue to succeed in the marketplace and track against our goals," said Scangos.

Turning to the company's pipeline, Scangos said that preparations are ongoing for the approval and launch of BG-12 (dimethyl fumarate), Biogen Idec's widely-anticipated oral drug for MS that will compete in the marketplace with Novartis' tipped blockbuster Gilenya (fingolimod).

BG-12 marketing applications are under review in the US and EU, he said, with filings also submitted in Australia, Canada and Switzerland.

Other pipeline highlights included the start of two global paediatric studies of Biogen Idec's long-acting recombinant Factor VIII and Factor IX Fc fusion proteins in haemophilia A and B, which are designed to cut injection frequency in patients and provide better long-term outcomes.

"The initiation of these studies represents an important clinical development milestone, as they are required for regulatory approval in the EU," commented Douglas Williams, Biogen Idec's executive vice president of R&D o a conference call.

The two drugs represent "the first potential innovations in haemophilia treatment in more than two decades," he added.

Enrolment has been completed in the DECIDE trial of another MS drug candidate, daclizumab, with results expected in 2014, said Williams, while a phase IIa trial has got underway for STX-100, Biogen Idec's candidate treatment for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Other late-stage programmes with data expected in the coming months include dexpramipexole, a drug with potential to be the first advance for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) since the introduction of Sanofi's Rilutek (riluzole) 15 years ago, and Biogen Idec's pegylated interferon beta-1a candidate for MS.

"Looking ahead, we have a steady drumbeat of data readouts over the next few years," said Williams.

25th July 2012


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