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Weak Q4 results and MS portfolio should be cause for concern for Biogen, says GlobalData

Following Biogen’s Q4 and full year 2018 earnings call (29 January), Antoine Grey, Pharma Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view on the chains current challenges:

Although Biogen had positive results regarding total product sales and total revenues, compared to Q4 2017, total multiple sclerosis (MS) product revenues dropped from $2,219m to $2,195m. Likewise, full year 2018 MS revenues dropped 4% from 2017’s $8,977m to 2018’s $8,595m. This can be attributed to a drop in revenues from their Avonex and Plegridy brands in both the US and globally.

“Considering that MS is a flagship portfolio for the company, it seems particularly worrying that there is little growth. However, there was also good news for Biogen in the MS space, with an NDA submitted for BIIB098, to be marketed as Vumerity in the US, which aims to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in MS patients. The company also has opicinumab in Phase II and BIIB061 in Phase I development, both for MS, although no other drugs in late-stage development for MS is concerning.

“Another worry was the lack of update on Biogen’s Alzheimer’s drug aducanumab, which is currently in Phase III trials. Any suggestion of an interim analysis was shut down by Biogen’s chief medical officer, Alfred Sandrock Jr., M.D., Ph.D., even though Roche was expected to disclose data on rival Alzheimer’s drug candidate, crenezumab, at the time of the earnings call. Just a day after, Roche announced they were dropping crenezumab after a disappointing interim analysis during late-stage clinical trials. This should bring some relief to Biogen due to potentially weaker competition in Alzheimer’s.

“Things were not all negative for Biogen’s neurodegenerative disease portfolio, as they announced collaborations with C4 Therapeutics to discover small molecules that induce ubiquitination-mediated degradation of target proteins in Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, and Skyhawk therapeutics, to discover small molecules capable of modulating RNA splicing in spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and MS. These collaborations will be a valuable asset to Biogen, showing that the company is committed to keeping its focus on these core areas and demonstrating leadership in the MS space, despite financial setbacks.”