Acorda’s Ampyra Improves Walking in Stroke Patients

Acorda Therapeutics Inc., maker of the drug Ampyra to improve walking in multiple sclerosis patients, rose to its highest value in more than two years after the company said a small study showed the medicine also helped people who have had strokes.

Acorda gained 13 percent to $35.50 at the close in New York, the shares’ highest value since September 2010. The stock has risen 43 percent this year.

Ampyra, approved in 2010 for use in MS, showed a “significant improvement” in walking speed over 25 feet among stroke patients, Chief Executive Officer Ron Cohen said in a telephone interview. Based on the results, the Ardsley, New York-based company plans to proceed with further studies.

“The results show a sign of activity, and suggest that Ampyra has a reasonable chance of securing a label for improving walking disability following a stroke,” Phil Nadeau, an analyst with Cowen & Co. in New York, wrote today in a note to clients. “Very few investors have attributed value to Ampyra’s utility in stroke.”

About 795,000 people in the U.S. have a stroke each year, according to the American Stroke Association. About half of the 7 million Americans who suffered a stroke have trouble walking and there are no available therapies, Cohen said.

“We have a small proof-of-concept study that appears encouraging,” Cohen said. “It looks a lot like the original MS data, so we’re encouraged, but we have a ways to go.”

Further Studies

The company also tested Ampyra in cerebral palsy, a group of disorders affecting movement. Those data, from a smaller study than in stroke, are being analyzed, the company said today in a statement.

Ampyra drew $266.1 million in 2012 revenue for Acorda, and analysts estimate it may grow to $404.7 million in 2016, according to the average of three analysts’ projections compiled by Bloomberg. Acorda has a partnership with Biogen Idec Inc., which sells the drug outside the U.S. for MS.

Ampyra, given as a pill twice a day, works to improve conduction of nerve signals when myelin, the protective covering around nerves, has been damaged. It does so by blocking potassium channels, providing a layer of insulation to help make up for myelin damage seen in multiple sclerosis, stroke and cerebral palsy, Cohen said.

“When you damage the myelin, you leak potassium from the inside of the nerve to the outside and that leakage drains current out of the middle of the nerve,” Cohen said. “The drug blocks potassium channels so potassium doesn’t leak.”

Initial Look

The data today, from a trial of 83 patients who suffered a stroke at least six months before starting the clinical trial, are from an initial look at the study, and the company is still analyzing the results.

The drug’s safety was consistent with what was shown in trials of its use in MS, Acorda said. The most common side effects were dizziness, fatigue and insomnia.

In addition to showing improvements on a timed 25-foot walk, patients taking Ampyra also showed a positive change compared with placebo on the Functional Independence Measurement scale, a gauge of patients’ ability to perform daily tasks.

“We have been following a path that is ruthlessly dictated by data,” Cohen said. “To have it actually look in humans as it did in animals is pretty exciting.”

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