Biogen, Elan launch MS drug face-off

Multiple sclerosis patients won't have to wait for the government say what drug works best against their disease: Biogen Idec and Elan, makers of Tysabri, hope to do it first. The two companies started enrollment in a 1,800-patient study pitting their drug against two other MS treatments, Copaxone from Teva and Merck Serono's Rebif.

Known as SURPASS, the study aims to identify the drug that works best at staving off relapses, as measured by the annualized relapse rate. The trial will also look at lesion growth and at disease progression to identify the drug that best halts disease activity, and check up on the safety of switching to Tysabri from another treatment.

Safety has been an issue with Tysabri; the drug was pulled off the U.S. market several years ago when patients developed a potentially fatal brain infection called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy. The drug came back into use under a risk-management program, and Biogen has been regularly updating the PML case count, which most recently stood at 42 .

- read the release from Biogen and Elan
- see the MarketWatch story