Biogen, Sanofi and Novartis stoke oral MS drug rivalry with clinical data

Three contenders in the oral multiple sclerosis drug race have spotlighted their rival therapies this week. Biogen Idec ($BIIB), which revealed analysis from two Phase III studies of its blockbuster hopeful BG-12, is providing the new data points as the biotech heavyweight seeks approval of the oral med in the U.S. and Europe.

Novartis ($NVS), which got to market ahead of its rivals with Gilenya, aims to reinforce the profile of its oral med. And Sanofi's ($SNY) is confirming the benefits of Aubagio after notching FDA approval of the MS pill last month. The companies seek growth in an expanding market for oral drugs to treat the autoimmune disorder, which is often addressed with injectable meds.

Weston, MA-based Biogen touted analysis from its late-stage "Define" and "Confirm" studies that showed patients on BG-12--or dimethyl fumarate--had major reductions in relapses and progression of disability. And safety data from a Phase III extension study raised no new safety red flags or indications that risks to patients on the med worsened. Those could be more encouraging signs that the candidate has blockbuster potential and enables Biogen to add an oral option to its existing MS franchise, which includes the injected drugs Avonex and Tysabri.

Biogen CEO George Scangos inherited the BG-12 program when he joined the company back in 2010, but a string of late-stage successes have propelled the biotech's stock to new heights and helped the CEO and his appointed top executives look really good in their new roles. 

Genzyme, which Sanofi has designated to lead its MS business, highlighted data from its Phase III "Tower" study, showing a 36.3% reduction in annualized relapse rate and 31.5 percent fall in risk of 12-week sustained accumulation of disability. As Novartis readies for new competition in the oral MS drug arena, the Swiss drug giant spotlighted a growing body of clinical data on Gilenya, including evidence of reduced brain volumes of patients on the treatment after 6 months.

- here's the Biogen news from MarketWatch
- and the company's release
- see Novartis' release
- and the item from Genzyme/Sanofi

Special Report: BG-12 - 15 top therapies in late-stage development

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