| NEW YORK, AUG 15
NEW YORK, AUG 15 U.S. health regulators on
Friday approved Biogen Idec Inc's Plegridy, a
long-acting multiple sclerosis drug that the company expects
will eventually replace its older big-selling Avonex treatment.
The company received European approval on July 23 for the
drug that is intended to reduce relapses of the debilitating
disease and slow its progression.
Plegridy, like Avonex, is a type of interferon. It is
designed to be injected every two weeks compared with weekly
injections for Avonex. It is also injected subcutaneously rather
than intramuscularly, meaning it requires a smaller needle.
Some other MS treatments from the interferon class of
medicines, such as Pfizer Inc's Rebif, are dosed more
frequently than Avonex.
Biogen said it will continue to support Avonex, which has
compiled global sales of more than $1.5 billion in the first
half of this year, for patients who are comfortable with the
treatment and not looking to switch. Avonex has U.S. patent
protection until 2026, Biogen said.
The company expects Plegridy to diminish Avonex sales and
take market share from other rivals even as overall sales from
the class decline with the increasing popularity of oral
treatments, such as Biogen's Tecfidera, which was approved in
"We believe Plegridy has the potential to be the leading
interferon on the market," Tony Kingsley, Biogen's head of
global commercial operations, said in a telephone interview.
"As the class shrinks, we will be in a position gain share
within that class," Kingsley said. "The most convenient product
wins over time."
The company will be ready to launch the new drug quickly,
Kingsley said, as it already had the MS sales force in place,
given its existing portfolio of three other medicines, including
The FDA nod marks the fourth U.S. approval for Biogen in the
last 16 months along with Tecfidera and two recently approved
long-acting hemophilia drugs, Alprolix and Eloctate, that put
the MS focused company into a new therapeutic category.
(Reporting by Bill Berkrot; Editing by David Gregorio)