Bayer introduces autoinjector for its multiple sclerosis drug to fend off oral competitors

Bayer is hoping that a new electronic autoinjector will slow the fall of lucrative multiple sclerosis drug Betaseron off of the dreaded patent expiry sales cliff.

Betaconnect--Courtesy of Bayer

The company announced that it will make the Betaconnect drug delivery device available to relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis patients on the injectable medication beginning in early 2016--just as the med's patent expires.

The device was recently approved by the FDA and will be the first and only electronic autoinjector on the market to treat RRMS, Bayer said in a release. It will enable patients to receive injections via the touch of a button.

Betaseron had 2013 sales of $1.38 billion, but that represented an annual decline of nearly 15%, in part due to the arrival of easier-to-use oral drugs, like Biogen's ($BIIB) Tecfidera.

Indeed, a survey by Team Consulting found that patients are overconfident in their ability to operate drug delivery devices like injection pens and often fail to realize that they are using them incorrectly. That makes innovations like the Betaconnect valuable (even if they are limited to use on a single medicine that's likely to see less use in the future).

"Injectables are an important therapeutic option for RRMS and the FDA approval of Betaconnect represents an important step that gives patients the ability to tailor certain aspects of their injections," said multiple sclerosis certified nurse Amy Perrin Ross, past president of the International Organization of MS Nurses, in a statement.

The customizable settings include injection speed and depth, though Bayer warns that changes should only be made after talking to a healthcare provider. The device also has an optional reminder to improve medication adherence. An audiovisual end-of-dose indicator informs patients when their dose is complete.

"Bayer has a long legacy of supporting and providing services for the RRMS community. Betaseron was the first disease-modifying therapy approved by the FDA to treat RRMS patients, and today we are pleased to offer the first and only electronic auto injector for those living with the disease," said Bayer vice president and general manager of neurology Klaus Marten in a statement.

Bayer says Betaseron reduces the number of relapses in people with RRMS, which afflicts about 400,000 people in the U.S.

- read the release

Special Report: The top 10 best-selling multiple sclerosis drugs of 2013 - Betaseron/Betaferon