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Teva says Copaxone repairs tissue damage in MS

Study data gives boost to company’s biggest-selling product over competition

Teva has reported the results of a new study which indicates that its multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone can repair some of the tissue damage seen in brains of MS patients.

The study used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to track the effects of Copaxone (glatiramer acetate) in 40 patients with relapsing/remitting MS over a 12-month period. The subjects had not previously been treated with Copaxone.

The results indicate that treatment with Copaxone significantly increased the magnetisation transfer ratio (MTR) in the patients, which is an emerging MRI technique used to investigate abnormalities in brain structures.

"Increased values indicate potential remyelination and axonal tissue repair," said Teva in a statement.

Remyelination - the restoration of the myelin sheath surrounding neurons which degenerates in MS – often occurs spontaneously in the brains of patients afflicted with MS.

However, sometimes the process fails, resulting in the death of the nerve fibre (axon), making remyelination a major therapy target.

The data - which is published in the journal Frontiers in Bioscience, also reinforced the positive impact of Copaxone in reducing MS-related lesions in the brains of the test subjects.

At enrolment, all patients had one or more contrast-enhancing lesions (CELS) for a total of 115 CELS. After 12 months, the number of CELs decreased to 21.

The new findings are a boost for Copaxone, which has been a major driver of growth at Teva for years, but is facing competitive pressure from newer MS treatments, including Novartis' orally-active rival Gilenya (fingolimod)

Generic competition is also a threat for Teva.

The company recently trimmed back its 2011 and 2012 revenue forecasts, in part because of expected pressure on Copaxone growth, which remains its biggest-selling product with third-quarter 2011 sales in excess of $1bn.

4th January 2012

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