Biogen MS Pill’s Early Sales May Help It Beat Estimates

The introduction of Biogen Idec Inc.’s multiple sclerosis pill, Tecfidera, outstripped the initial sales of competing drugs from Novartis AG and Sanofi, suggesting the treatment may beat estimates for the year.

Total prescriptions more than doubled this week to 730 from 332 last week, according to a Wells Fargo report today. Tecfidera, also known as BG-12, was approved March 27 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and analysts had estimated it may generate $3.4 billion in sales by 2017.

“Holy mother of all launches,” wrote Mark Schoenebaum, an analyst with ISI Group Inc., in a note to clients today.

The data indicate U.S. sales of Tecfidera this year could be greater than $450 million, exceeding the $240 million to $300 million expected by analysts and investors, according to Schoenebaum. It took rival Gilenya, made by Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis, 22 weeks to reach that many prescriptions and Tecfidera’s use has already surpassed Aubagio, from Paris-based Sanofi, Schoenebaum wrote.

The drug is Biogen’s first oral offering for MS, a central nervous system disease that affects an estimated 2.1 million people worldwide, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The Weston, Massachusetts-based company also sells Avonex, an injection, and Tysabri, an infusion.

Biogen has climbed 22 percent since March 27, outpacing increases in the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index of 10 percent and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of 2 percent. They gained 4.7 percent today to $223.61 at the close of trading in New York.

“Getting up on Monday mornings has always been difficult, but it just got easier,” wrote Ravi Mehrotra, an analyst with Credit Suisse, in a research note last week. “Every Monday, we now have the prospect of waking up to U.S. Tecfidera scrip data.”