ECTRIMS Congress 2013
data is rolling out at the European Committee for Treatment and
Research in Multiple Sclerosis annual meeting this week, with the new
slate of oral treatments in the spotlight, along with a lineup of older
injectables and experimental drugs. So far, one common theme is this:
Early treatment equals better results.
In any disease,
the earlier a drug can get into the mix of possible treatments, the
better. So, it's no surprise that Sanofi ($SNY) and Biogen Idec ($BIIB)
each touted data on early use of their MS treatments Aubagio
(teriflunomide) and Tysabri (natalizumab), respectively.
the MS pill approved last year by the FDA and this year by European
regulators, reduced the risk of a second attack in patients with early
MS symptoms. For patients on the higher, 14-mg dose, the risk was
reduced by 43%. The higher dose also cut the risk of a new relapse or
brain lesion by 35%. In both cases, Aubagio was compared with placebo.
The results "underscore Aubagio's potential for treating patients at
earlier stages of MS," Dr. David Meeker, CEO of Sanofi's Genzyme unit,
said in a statement.
Tysabri, Biogen's injectable drug,
has long been used in patients who've either failed on or can't
tolerate other treatments. Biogen unveiled new data analyses that showed
patients who started on Tysabri at lower levels of disability saw
particularly significant reductions in MS activity, as did patients
treated for longer than two years. "These analyses build upon a growing
body of evidence that demonstrates greater clinical benefits for people
with MS when Tysabri is initiated earlier in the course of the disease,"
Biogen CMO Dr. Alfred Sandrock said in a statement. Biogen asked the
FDA to approve earlier use of Tysabri in certain patients in January.
Novartis ($NVS) unveiled real-world treatment data gathered from a
disease registry and a health claims database, comparing Gilenya
(fingolimod) with other standard MS treatments. The Novartis drug cut
the annualized relapse rate by about 50% compared with interferon drugs
or Teva's ($TEVA) Copaxone (glatiramer acetate), the study found. It
also found that patients with a history of relapse saw fewer of them
after switching to Gilenya. "It is encouraging to see that the benefits
of Gilenya, which is the only disease-modifying treatment proven in
clinical studies to have a superior relapse reduction compared to an
active comparator, are now confirmed in a real-world setting," Novartis
Pharmaceuticals chief David Epstein said.
The ECTRIMS meeting continues through Saturday, with more studies from Biogen, Sanofi and others yet to come.