Biogen, wrestling MS rivals, touts 10 year-plus Tecfidera data

The multiple sclerosis field has grown increasingly competitive in recent years, but now Biogen is touting data the drugmaker believes will give its established Tecfidera an edge new rivals can’t match. 

At the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS) conference in Stockholm, Biogen on Wednesday presented long-term data showing Tecfidera maintained safety and efficacy for patients for at least a decade. In the study, investigators tracked 192 patients on Tecfidera for at least 10 years, finding a “low incidence” of relapses and disease progression over the period.

About half of patients remained relapse-free over the study period, while 64% of patients had no confirmed disability progression, Biogen said. And 79% of patients maintained the ability to walk without significant disability. Researchers didn’t track an increase in serious infections. 

Speaking with FiercePharma, Biogen’s global MS head, Bernd Kieseier, said the results highlight Tecfidera’s “dramatic” effect on patients over at least a decade. He’s “heavily convinced” the new data will help Tecfidera in a competitive MS field because physicians can now show patients the effect of the drug 10 years down the road.  

"Any new kid on the block” doesn’t have similar data, Kieseier added. 

RELATED: Thank you, Ocrevus: Roche ups guidance as MS drug steams past blockbuster mark 

The new data come as drugmakers fight for share in the increasingly competitive MS field. Approved in 2017, Roche's injectable Ocrevus quickly grew to blockbuster status. Despite the competition, Biogen’s Tecfidera has been chugging along, growing sales to $4.2 billion last year. In the first half of 2019, Tecfidera pulled in $2.15 billion. 

Biogen receives royalties from Roche’s Ocrevus sales, so it’s somewhat insulated from the Ocrevus threat. Aside from Ocrevus, Tecfidera is also competing against Novartis’ oral Gilenya, Sanofi’s Aubagio and many other meds.  

Looking ahead, the company aims to improve on Tecfidera with diroximel fumarate, which Kieseier said is “more or less identical” to Tecfidera but is better tolerated by patients who had gastrointestinal side effects on the existing med. The drugmaker is also aiming to develop medicines to repair damage caused by MS. Existing drugs only treat inflammation, but the company has early-stage candidates aimed at undoing the disease's effects, the exec said.