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Genzyme continues MS drug rollout across EU

Lemtrada and Aubagio now available in Republic of Ireland
genzyme offices

Genzyme's plans to grow its multiple sclerosis business in Europe continued with the launch of two new treatments in the Republic of Ireland.

The company, which serves as the biotech arm of French pharma firm Sanofi, today launched the injectable Lemtrada (alemtuzumab) in the country just weeks after oral multiple sclerosis (MS) treatment Aubagio (teriflunomide) hit the market.

Lemtrada will be made available to adults with active relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS), in accordance with its approval from the EC. It is to be given as an intravenous infusion in two annual treatment courses.

Aubagio is also available for adults with active RRMS, although it is one of several new MS treatments that come in an oral formulation, offering greater convenience to patients. It is to be taken once daily.

According to Genzyme, there are 8,000 people in Ireland with MS and around 85% will be affected by RRMS.

The launch of Lemtrada follows a recommendation in July this year from the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics (NCPE), which provides guidance on what drugs should be reimbursed on Ireland's healthcare system, the Health Service Executive (HSE).

By contrast, Aubagio was turned down by the NCPE in June after an assessment found that the drug's benefits did not justify its cost.

However, in a conversation with PMLiVE, Henry Featherstone, director of public affairs at Genzyme UK & Ireland confirmed that Genzyme has since held discussions with the HSE and the organisation has agreed that the drug can be reimbursed in Ireland.

As for where the drugs fit on the MS treatment pathway, Featherstone said that the broad indication for both products allowed doctors to discuss suitable options with patients. Further down the line, however, it's possible that Aubagio will be better suited as a first-line treatment for people with MS, while Lemtrada will be reserved for more aggressive forms of the disease.

"We hope to have these treatments available to as many people with MS as possible," Featherstone told PMLiVE. "We passionately believe in these products."

Backing Featherstone's belief, both drugs are making headway in western Europe where Lemtrada had revenues of €10m for the first six months of the year and Aubagio had revenues of €38m.

It's a different story for Lemtrada in the US, however, as the drug was turned down by the FDA at the start of 2014, much to the shock of Genzyme and Sanofi.

The decision, which was based on concerns over the drug's safety, drew criticism from the healthcare community and dozens of US doctors added their name to an open letter to the FDA to appeal the negative guidance.

Article by
Thomas Meek

2nd September 2014

From: Sales

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