Bayer eyes challenge to oral MS meds with new Betaseron injector

How do you keep a 22-year-old injectable multiple sclerosis therapy competitive in the face of threats from high-flying oral contenders? Bayer has an idea.

The company recently won FDA approval for Betaconnect, an automatic injector it thinks can help keep its standby treatment, Betaseron, in the game.

Unlike the original Betaseron delivery device--which makes noise during administration that can patients can find unsettling, former president of the International Organization of MS Nurses Amy Ross told Reuters--the new autoinjector is silent and reminds patients to take their meds every other day. It also customizable--allowing for adjustments in injection speed and depth--and features automatic needle retraction, the news service notes.

It's not a bad time for some innovation surrounding Betaseron, which could use a boost. Currently, the med holds about 5% of the U.S. market, and lately it's watched newer, oral meds--such as Biogen's ($BIIB) Tecfidera--eclipse its share.

But that doesn't mean there's no room for a Betaseron comeback, Bayer figures. For one, reports of rare and deadly brain disease PML have cropped up among patients on Tecfidera and rival pill Gilenya from Novartis ($NVS), putting a damper on things for the quick-launching drugs. Instead, some doctors are starting new patients on injectables thanks to their long-term safety and efficacy track record--and within that group, Bayer thinks Betaconnect will give it a leg up.

"We have to stay competitive, and we think with this autoinjector we have a good chance to stay competitive," Klaus Marten, Bayer HealthCare's vice president and general manager of neurology, told Reuters.

- get more from Reuters

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