Biogen warns of sales slump for MS drug Avonex

Sales will grow by as little as 7% in 2005, compared with 28% in 2001
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By Ronen Srebrnik

American biotechnology firm Biogen yesterday warned that it foresees slowing worldwide sales of Avonex, its treatment for multiple sclerosis.

Avonex sales are expected to grow by 15% to 18% in the year 2002, with the growth rate slowing to 7% to 10% between 2003 and 2005, compared with 28% recorded in 2001.

Avonex is a leading drug in the treatment of MS in the U.S. In Europe it competes with Rebif, made by Ares Serono. In both the U.S. and Europe, another rival is Teva Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq:TEVA) drug Copaxone, which unlike Avonex and Rebif is not based on interferon. Copaxone entered the market through patients whop are intolerant of interferon protein treatments, and has become the second best-selling treatment for multiple sclerosis.

Despite the slowing growth of Avonex, Biogen expects double-digit profit growth through 2002, partly due to the launch of a new treatment for psoriasis in 2003.

Biogen advised that it expects $1.9 to $2 per share operating profit in 2002, 5 cents below analysts' forecasts. It met its forecast for 2001 of $1.9 per share, excluding an $8 million co-operation commission. For 2005 Biogen expects revenues to total $1.9 to $2.3 billion.