Sanofi chief can't spark much enthusiasm for new MS drugs

Back when Sanofi's Chris Viehbacher was in the hunt for Genzyme, one of the big sticking points was assessing the value of the experimental MS drug Lemtrada. Genzyme's forecasts were starry eyed. Sanofi ($SNY), which had its own late-stage MS drug in the pipeline, issued bleak forecasts. Which is why they ultimately established a CVR on the program to separate it in their $20 billion buyout deal.

Now, though, Viehbacher says he's seen the results of the late-stage trial, and he's a believer.

"Now that we have seen the clinical trial results--I have seen them but I cannot say more because we are going to publish them in April--we are very excited about this multiple sclerosis franchise," Viehbacher tells Reuters' Ben Hirschler.

But now he's finding it harder to get analysts enthusiastic as well. The problem: Novartis ($NVS) has beaten the competition to the marketplace with Gilenya and Biogen Idec has wowed the industry with impressive data on BG-12, its big new MS drug that appears to be on track to a blockbuster approval.

Reuters notes that peak sales forecasts for Lemtrada range from a billion euros a year at Morgan Stanley to a mere 360 million at Nomura. And the fact that Sanofi has a shot of debuting a second MS treatment, Aubagio, has done nothing to whet the enthusiasm of the analysts.

"Sanofi will remain a small player compared with Biogen or Novartis, but it will still remain on the radar screen," Natixis analyst Beatrice Muzard tells the wire service. Maybe Viehbacher did too good a job at downplaying Lemtrada.

- here's the article from Reuters