(Adds CEO comments, other details, byline)
By Deena Beasley
LOS ANGELES Jan 7 Biogen Idec Inc (BIIB.O) has
moved a long-acting version of its multiple sclerosis drug,
Avonex, directly into trials designed to meet requirements for
regulatory approval, the company's chief executive said on
CEO Jim Mullen said during an investor conference held in
New York that the company has completed Phase 1 trials and will
study dosing the drug once every two weeks as well as once
"I think we've got a good chance of similar efficacy as
interferons," he said.
Patients in the trials will be treated for one year with the
injectable drug and full results will likely be available in two
years, Mullen added.
Avonex, with sales of $573 million in the third quarter of
2008, is the leading drug for multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune
disease in which the body mistakenly attacks the fatty myelin
coating surrounding nerve cells.
Biogen, along with marketing partner Elan Corp Plc ELN.I,
also sells MS drug Tysabri, which was taken off the market after
its 2004 introduction when it was linked to a potentially fatal
brain infection, but reintroduced beginning in 2006 because
there were so few good options for patients with MS.
Mullen said investors continue to underestimate the newer
drug's sales potential: "We have a much more bullish view on
Tysabri than the Street does."
"We've got a 40 share of the overall MS market, which could
easily go to 50," the CEO said.
He said other discrepancies between Biogen's outlook and
that of Wall Street include the company's "more bullish view on
the sustainability of Avonex," growth potential for the
franchise surrounding non-Hodgkin's lymphoma drug Rituxan, and
additional opportunities for trimming costs.
Mullen said Biogen will no longer report new cases of
progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, the brain infection
associated with Tysabri, through filings with securities
regulators, but will instead issue weekly updates on its Web
(Reporting by Deena Beasley; Editing by Andre Grenon and