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Copaxone, the answer of Israeli drugmaker

Teva Pharmaceuticals

(TASE, Nasdaq:


) to relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, continued to thrash Serono's Rebif in the second quarter, concludes a Lehman Brothers analytical team.

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In a research update on the Swiss drug company, the team Ed Godber, Johannah Walton and Sam Williams wrote that Serono's forecast for Rebif's growth is too aggressive.

Instead of sales growth by 43% to 45% outside the United States, Lehman sees 39% is more likely, and predicts that the company will lower its Rebif sales guidance for 2002 and 2003. The key stumbling block is Copaxone, which was responsible for some of Rebif's weakness in the second quarter, Lehman concludes.

As Teva rolls out the drug in Europe, it achieved a 17% market share in Germany, for instance, and the drug is just now reaching certain European markets.

Rebif is also suffering from Biogen's Avonex, which has been boosted by a big marketing push, the analysts write.

"Europe is unlikely to yield the 24% growth previously indicated by Serono (for Rebif), while weak prescription data suggest that U.S. sales will not make up the shortfall," the analysts write in a study dated September 20.

At the end of July Serono warned that profits would only grow by 10% in 2002, compared with its previous estimate of 15% to 17%. It spoke of disappointing second-quarter Rebif sales and reduced its estimate for U.S. sales to $58-60 million, from $60-70 million, a forecast dating from May.