Biogen Q1 profit up; shares soar on drug data

Biogen Q1 profit up; shares soar on drug data

Boston: Biogen Idec Inc released promising data from a clinical trial of its experimental multiple sclerosis drug BG-12 on Thursday, sending its shares up 23% in premarket trading.

The Weston, Massachusetts-based biotechnology company said the drug, when given twice a day, cut the proportion of patients who relapsed by 49% at two years, compared with those who took a placebo. It cut the rate of disability progression by 38%.

Biogen executives revealed the results on the company’s first-quarter earnings call, which showed the company’s net profit rose to $294 million, or $1.20 a share, from $217 million, or 80 cents a share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose 9% to $1.2 billion.

If approved, BG-12 could significantly strengthen Biogen’s position in the increasingly competitive market for multiple sclerosis drugs. It already sells Avonex, which is injected, and Tysabri, which is infused.

BG-12 is a pill that, if approved, would compete with a recently-launched pill from Novartis AG and an experimental pill, laquinimod, being developed by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

Shares of Teva fell 9% in premarket trading as data for BG-12 appeared stronger recently-released data for laquinimod.

BG-12 is particularly important for Biogen as uncertainty still hovers over the future of Tysabri, which has been associated with a potentially deadly brain infection known as progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, or PML.

Global sales of Tysabri, the company’s biggest growth driver, rose 20% to $349 million in the latest quarter. Analysts were expecting about $337 million.

Sales of Tysabri in the United States were $170 million, while overseas sales were $179 million.

At the end of March there were 58,400 patients on Tysabri worldwide, up from 56,000 at the end of the fourth quarter.

Sales of its multiple sclerosis drug Avonex rose 8% to $642 million.

Excluding one-time items, the company reported earnings of $1.43 a share in the first quarter. Analysts were on average expecting earnings of $1.41 a share and revenue of $1.18 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company said in February it expects 2011 earnings excluding one-time items to top $5.70 a share and 2011 revenue growth to range between flat and the low single digits. It made no change to its outlook.

Biogen’s shares rose 23% to $106.61 in premarket trading on Nasdaq, from a close on Wednesday of $86.57. Teva’s shares fell 9% to $44.68 from a close of $49.17.