Novartis’s Gilenya Fails to Help Hard-to-Treat Form of MS

Novartis AG’s multiple sclerosis drug Gilenya failed to help patients with one of the most difficult-to-treat forms of the disease.

In an advanced study involving 970 people with primary-progressive MS, there was no significant difference between those who were treated with Gilenya and those who got a placebo, Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis said in a statement today.

There’s no approved treatment for primary-progressive MS, a form of the disease which involves a steady worsening of brain function and affects about 10 percent of all MS patients, or 2.3 million people globally. Gilenya, which is approved to treat the more common relapsing-remitting form of MS, is predicted to become Novartis’s best-selling product by 2016, with analysts forecasting $3.2 billion in sales.

“We understand this news is very disappointing for those affected by PPMS,” Vasant Narasimhan, head of development at Novartis’s pharmaceuticals division, said in the statement. “While PPMS is a focus of the MS community, relatively little is known about the disease, so finding effective treatments remains a challenge.”

Novartis fell 0.5 percent to 93 Swiss francs as of 9:59 a.m. in Zurich. The stock has gained 35 percent this year, including dividends, compared with a 26 percent gain for the Bloomberg Europe Pharmaceutical Index.

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