Dear Valued Visitor,

We have noticed that you are using an ad blocker software.

Although advertisements on the web pages may degrade your experience, our business certainly depends on them and we can only keep providing you high-quality research based articles as long as we can display ads on our pages.

To view this article, you can disable your ad blocker and refresh this page or simply login.

We only allow registered users to use ad blockers. You can sign up for free by clicking here or you can login if you are already a member.

Biogen Idec Inc. (BIIB), Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd (ADR) (TEVA), Novartis AG (ADR) (NVS): Companies Leading the Fight Against Multiple Sclerosis

Biogen Idec Inc (NASDAQ:BIIB)It’s a disease that doesn’t often find itself in the spotlight, but multiple sclerosis is quickly becoming an ailment that drugmakers are focusing their efforts on to make a quality-of-life difference for patients.

MS is a disease in which the body’s own autoimmune system attacks its central nervous system, consisting of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves, disabling it over time. Some of the symptoms of MS can be relatively minor, such as tingling of the limbs, but others can be considerably more severe, including loss of vision and/or paralysis.

In recent years, the incidence rate of MS has been on the rise. However, one of the few tidbits of good news here is that this may be because of earlier and proper diagnosis rather than an actual increase in MS as a disease.

In total, an estimated 400,000 people in the U.S. suffer from MS, with approximately 10,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Women are more susceptible than men to getting MS, with the diseases in both genders most often diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50. Researchers have also discovered a correlation between age and aggressiveness of the disease. The older a person is at the time of their diagnosis, the more aggressive the disease tends to be.

With this in mind, biopharmaceutical companies have been working their behinds off to create medications designed to slow down or stop the degradation of the central nervous system brought on by MS. While we’d love a cure, there are still too many unknowns about this disease to even dream of one at the moment.

Where we’ve been
Two drugs that have had a long-tenured and rich history in treating MS over the years are Tysabri and Copaxone.

Tysabri is a drug that was developed by Elan and licensed by Biogen Idec Inc. (NASDAQ:BIIB) to treat patients with relapsing MS. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2004 and generated $1.6 billion in sales last year. Recently, Biogen Idec Inc. (NASDAQ:BIIB) ponied up $3.25 billion, plus future royalties, to purchase the full global rights to Tysabri from Elan. In addition, Biogen Idec Inc. (NASDAQ:BIIB) is testing Tysabri as a treatment for secondary-progressive MS, a form of the disease that comes after relapse-remitting MS and progresses at a much faster pace. Although Tysabri’s days as a patented drug for relapsing MS are numbered, Tysabri’s overseas opportunity, and perhaps even domestic opportunity in a new indication, is still bright.

The same can be said for Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd (ADR) (NYSE:TEVA), whose once-daily relapse-remitting MS injection, Copaxone, has been nothing short of a blockbuster. Even more impressive, for Copaxone you have to go all the way back to December 1996 to find its FDA approval date! Copaxone is a $4 billion-plus drug for Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd (ADR) (NYSE:TEVA) and accounted for close to 20% of its revenue last year — but it’s also only two years away from losing patent protection.

Source: Pixabay.

Where we are now
We’ve come an incredibly long way over the past three years in MS treatments. Specifically, we’re beginning to see a shift away from injection-based administration to pill form.

Novartis AG (ADR) (NYSE:NVS) led things off in 2010 with the approval of Gilenya, a capsule-based relapsing MS treatment that is cleared for use in first-line and second-line MS cases and works by blocking some red blood cells in lymph nodes and curtailing their travel to the brain and spinal cord. Overall, Gilenya delivered $1.2 billion in net sales worldwide in 2012, a 142% increase in U.S. dollars. The one downside to Gilenya, though, is that it can lower a patient’s heart rate, which has the potential to cause cardiovascular problems, and in rare cases it’s been linked to macular edema and liver problems.

Last September, Sanofi SA (ADR) (NYSE:SNY) brought Aubagio, a capsule-based relapsing MS drug, to market. In trials, Aubagio was quite effective, reducing the relapse rate of MS patients by roughly 30% relative to the placebo. However, being slapped with a black-box warning by the FDA for severe liver problems that can lead to death have seriously curbed its sales potential. In the second quarter, Aubagio brought in just $44 million in sales.

DOWNLOAD FREE REPORT: Warren Buffett's Best Stock Picks

Let Warren Buffett, George Soros, Steve Cohen, and Daniel Loeb WORK FOR YOU.

If you want to beat the low cost index funds by 19 percentage points per year, look no further than our monthly newsletter.In this free report you can find an in-depth analysis of the performance of Warren Buffett's entire historical stock picks. We uncovered Warren Buffett's Best Stock Picks and a way to for Buffett to improve his returns by more than 4 percentage points per year.

Bonus Biotech Stock Pick: You can also find a detailed bonus biotech stock pick that we expect to return more than 50% within 12 months.
Subscribe me to Insider Monkey's Free Daily Newsletter
This is a FREE report from Insider Monkey. Credit Card is NOT required.