September 11, 2009 / 2:33 PM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 1-Sanofi oral MS drug promising in mid-stage trial

* Teriflunomide reduces cerebral lesions in Phase II trial * Sanofi drug given as add-on therapy to interferon beta

* Sanofi shares up 1.6 pct

(Adds details, shares, background)

LONDON, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Patients given an experimental multiple sclerosis tablet from Sanofi-Aventis (SASY.PA) showed a significant improvement compared to those on placebo in a mid-stage test, researchers said on Friday.

Teriflunomide, which was used as an add-on therapy to interferon beta in the Phase II clinical trial, is one of a number of MS drugs in development that are designed to be given by mouth rather than injection or infusion.

In the 24-week study, patients on the new drug experienced a 56 percent and 81 percent reduction in cerebral inflammatory lesions compared to those on placebo, as measured by MRI scan, on two different doses of the drug, which was well tolerated.

“These results encourage longer-term studies to establish the clinical benefit of combination treatment in this disease where effective new therapies are eagerly awaited,” investigator Mark Freedman of the University of Ottawa said in a statement.

Teriflunomide is currently being evaluated in final-stage Phase III studies.

Shares in Sanofi were 1.6 percent higher by 1415 GMT, also buoyed by news of a U.S. patent victory for its cancer drug Eloxatin. [ID:nnLB675736]

Oral treatments are seen as an important advance in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, a chronic and degenerative neurological disease, and are being pursued by several companies.

The most advanced product is Merck KGaA’s (MRCG.DE) cladribine, which also reported encouraging clinical trial results on Friday. [ID:nLB553376]

The data on teriflunomide and cladribine was presented at the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis congress in Duesseldorf.

Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by John Stonestreet

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