ViewPoints: Data remain early, but Tecfidera "crushing" launches of other oral MS treatments

Biogen Idec appears unable to do anything wrong at the moment – particularly when it comes to the company's recently launched multiple sclerosis therapy Tecfidera.

Insight, Analysis & Opinion

First week prescription data demonstrated a very rapid initial uptake for Tecfidera (see ViewPoints: Very early (one week) prescription data demonstrates rapid uptake for Biogen Idec's Tecfidera), with second week IMS numbers showing that the franchise is going from strength to strength. With IMS data indicating a 120 percent week-on-week increase in total prescriptions (which now exceed 700, according to the data provider), Tecfidera is simply "crushing the launches of Gilenya (Novartis) and Aubagio (Sanofi)," said International Strategy & Investment analyst Mark Schoenebaum in a note to investors.

He predicts that sales for the full year may now be closer to $500 million, versus current estimates of between $250 million and $300 million, and revenue performance will be an eagerly anticipated focal point when Biogen Idec reports its second-quarter numbers.

Nevertheless, available prescription data remains very early, and, thus two key trends remain important: any short-term stabilisation in Tecfidera numbers - reflecting both a natural 'flattening' once the product has been available for a few weeks and potentially reflecting reported progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) cases with Biogen Idec's related product Fumaderm- and the future impact of Tecfidera on prescription trends for competing therapies. In a note to investors, Leerink Swann analyst Marko Kozul suggests such trends should become more apparent over the next few weeks.

Side-effect concerns should not have any minimal impact on uptake of Tecfidera, according to both analysts and key opinion leaders (KOLs) interviewed by FirstWord's Therapy trends team. Furthermore, management's decision to come out of the gates and immediately "bat down" the PML reports when the company announced its Q1 results last week was a "positive move," Asthika Goonewardene – an analyst at Bloomberg – told FirstWord. See also ViewPoints: Biogen Idec moves swiftly to allay Tecfidera safety concerns – key opinion leaders in agreement.

Thus, perhaps the more intriguing dynamic within the MS market is how existing therapies – both orals and injectables – will compete with Tecfidera's highly impressive launch trajectory. In the oral space for example, the commercial outlook for Sanofi's Aubagio is framed by the fact that it took the French company's product some 25 weeks to generate the same level of prescriptions that Tecfidera has achieved in little over a fortnight.

It is older injectable therapies where Tecfidera is expected to do most of its commercial damage however, which makes early prescription numbers uncomfortable reading for the likes of Teva, Serono and Bayer (and potentially Biogen Idec if its own Avonex franchise undergoes significant revenue cannibalisation at the hands of Tecfidera). See Physician Views Poll Results – Neurologists indicate rapid uptake by year end for Biogen Idec's Tecfidera, boosted by warehousing effect and clean label and Physician Views Poll Results – Biogen Idec's Tecfidera poised to assume share from ABCRs and orals; fully-acquired Tysabri to act as support with growing first-line presence expected

Further analysis:

Spotlight On: Five key facts about Biogen Idec's Tecfidera

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