Business Irish

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Elan chief downplays threat to blockbuster Tysabri

John Mulligan

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.

Blood test

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".

Irish Independent

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