Biogen Idec (Nasdaq: BIIB) is on track to add a third multiple sclerosis therapy to its portfolio – one with blockbuster drug potential.

The biotechnology company on Wednesday reported positive results from the second of two phase 3 trials on its MS drug candidate BG-12. In a two-year study, a twice daily dosage reduced the annualized relapse rate for MS patients by 44 percent compared to placebo. At three times a day dosage, relapse rates were reduced by 51 percent. Perhaps more important, BG-12 performed better than a competing Teva Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: TEVA) MS drug Copaxone, which reduced the relapse rate by 29 percent compared to a placebo. The results of this second study follow the release of positive results of a first phase 3 study in April.

Weston, Massachusetts-based Biogen Idec already makes its MS drugs Tysabri and Avonex at its facility in Research Triangle Park. Tysabri is administered by intravenous infusion; Avonex is an injectible drug. Industry observers are excited about BG-12 because it is a pill that would be a welcome alternative for many MS patients.

“We now have strong positive results for BG-12 in two robust pivotal clinical trials with more than 2,600 patients,” Doug Williams, Biogen Idec’s executive vice president of research and development said in a statement. “We are gratified by these strong efficacy and safety results, which, when combined with BG-12’s oral route of administration, position it as a potentially important MS therapy.”

Williams added that the company is working to prepare regulatory submissions with the goal of “making BG-12 available to MS patients as quickly as possible.”
Biogen Idec Investors cheered the news, which comes two days before the company is scheduled to release third quarter financial results. Biogen Idec shares jumped more than 7 percent to $115 in mid-morning trading. But Teva shares fell by more than 5 percent on the news.

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