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Mixed results for Biogen’s MS drug

Published on 09/01/15 at 01:45pm
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An experimental drug from Biogen Idec for the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) has shown a mixed bag of results in trials to overhaul nerve loss in patients’ eyes.

Anti-LINGO-1 (BIIB033), aimed at reversing progression of the disease, revealed a 34% improvement in those participating in a mid-stage trial of 82 patients.

The drug bared an improvement in the study’s primary endpoint, but displayed no effects on secondary goals in its trial, including change in thickness of the retinal layers.

While it did show signs of enhancement of the speed at which signals travel between nerves in the eye, the treatment produced no effect on patients’ ability to see.

What’s more, the drug appeared to be generally well tolerated – but according to the US-based biotech firm three people experienced severe adverse effects. Biogen brushed any negativity aside in a statement which says in its view overall results were positive.

Biogen’s chief medical officer Alfred Sandrock notes: “This is the first clinical trial to provide evidence of biological repair in the central nervous system by facilitating remyelination following an acute inflammatory injury.”

However Joshua Schimmer, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, says: “It's hard to get excited about these results. We will see if the programme delivers clinical benefit in the MS setting in 2016 and do not include it in our model or valuation.”

MS is a neurological condition which affects around 100,000 people in the UK, the disease causes the immune system to attack myelin, a fatty substance that coats and protects nerve fibers. Patients can experience tingling, problems with walking and degrading vision, symptoms get worse as MS progresses.

The biotech firm is shoring up its status as the leading MS speciality company, as last year its Plegridy (peginterferon beta-ta) drug gained FDA approval for the treatment of relapsing forms of the disease.

It also won authorisation in Europe and a subsequent NICE recommendation for its ‘blockbuster in waiting’ relapsing–remitting MS drug Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate).

On average it is forecasted that annual worldwide sales of Tecfidera could potentially reach $6 billion by 2019, whilst Plegridy could bring in around $2 billion in peak annual sales.

Tom Robinson

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