Elan chief downplays threat to blockbuster Tysabri
Published 28/10/2011 | 05:00
The boss of Irish drug firm Elan, Kelly Martin, says he doesn't believe sales of the company's blockbuster multiple sclerosis treatment Tysabri will be adversely impacted by a likely launch of a new rival product from its US partner.
Speaking as Elan reported a 17pc rise in revenue to $328.5m (€230.7m) for the quarter to the end of September, Mr Martin said he didn't believe a launch of Biogen-Idec's BG-12 treatment would have "any significant impact" on Tysabri sales.
Elan and Boston-based Biogen-Idec jointly and equally own the rights to the Tysabri drug, which generated sales of $279m for the Irish company in the last quarter and $793m in the nine months to the end of September.
Biogen-Idec revealed results of long-term trials of BG-12 this week that show it has been extremely effective in treating MS patients, cutting the relapse rate by 44pc when used twice a day by people suffering from the disease.
Shares in Biogen-Idec jumped 10pc on the news and analysts expect the drug to become the world's bestselling MS treatment, with projected annual sales of up to $4bn.
But Mr Martin was adamant yesterday that the improved risk profile of Tysabri -- which has suffered setbacks in the past over safety concerns -- is just one of the reasons why sales of the drug won't be hit.
"We don't think BG-12 will have any impact in how Tysabri will grow in the future," he said. There were 63,500 people using the drug at the end of September.
The advent of a new blood test that enables potential and existing users to determine whether they're prone to contracting a potentially fatal brain disease after long-term use of the treatment is also expected to underpin Tysabri's sales growth.
Robust sales of Tysabri -- which were up 28pc for Elan in the last quarter at $392.6m -- have helped to propel Elan's financial performance, with adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) having jumped 58pc to $60.3m in the period.
The company is on track to generate total sales of around $1bn this year, while within the next five years annual revenues are likely to hit $2bn.
Elan sealed a $1bn deal this year to sell its drug technology business to US-based firm Alkermes. That deal resulted in a cash payment of $500m for Elan, as well as $500m in equity in Alkermes, representing a 25pc stake in the business.
Elan can begin selling down that stake early next year and Mr Martin confirmed yesterday that the company is not a long-term investor in Alkermes.
He also said yesterday that the search for a new chief executive for the company remains in progress and that his eventual replacement will be announced by the board "at the right time".