Biogen prices Tecfidera below oral MS rival Gilenya

The highly anticipated number is in: Biogen Idec's ($BIIB) newly approved Tecfidera has a wholesale price of $54,900 per year, the biotech giant revealed on Friday. With the U.S. market debut of the oral multiple sclerosis drug set for Monday, Biogen plans to hit the market for MS pills with a lower price than Novartis' ($NVS) Gilenya, which is arguably the company's top competition.

The Tecfidera price falls on the high end of the $50,000 to $55,000 range predicted by RBC Capital Markets analyst Michael Yee. Existing MS pills on the U.S. market include Gilenya at $58,000 per year and Sanofi's ($SNY) Aubagio for $45,000, according to the analyst's numbers. So Biogen has set a middle-of-the-field price for a pill that many analysts expect to become the top therapy in the oral MS class.

"We think this price represents a solid value to the MS community and demonstrates our commitment to ensuring patient access," Biogen spokeswoman Monique da Silva told FiercePharma in an email. 

Biogen has been a leading player in the MS market for years with top-selling injected therapy Avonex and the IV drug Tysabri, yet the company's sales organization needs to master a whole new pitch for Tecfidera with many physicians who are unfamiliar with the product. Naturally, docs will want to know how the MS pill stacks up with rival therapies. On the safety score, Tecfidera comes with a relatively clear profile compared with Aubagio, which is saddled with a black-box warning about increased risk of liver problems, and Gilenya, which regulators warn should not be used in patients with heart disease.

However, Gilenya has reduced relapse rates in MS patients in studies by about 54% compared with 44% to 53% in those studied on Biogen's pill and 30% in patients taking Aubagio in clinical trials, The New York Times reported. Yet analysts expect Tecfidera to ultimately garner the most sales. EvaluatePharma pegs the consensus estimate on peak sales of Tecfidera at $3.8 billion, more than most analysts expect Gilenya and Aubagio to bring in for their pharma providers.