Biogen Plunges as Multiple Sclerosis Drug Fails in Trial

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  • Stock falls most since July 2015 on mid-stage trial miss
  • Patients didn’t do significantly better than those on placebo

Biogen Inc. plunged the most in almost a year after an experimental drug for multiple sclerosis that investors and patients had hoped might alter the course of the neurological disease failed in a mid-stage trial.

The drug, called opicinumab, missed both the main and secondary goals for treating the disorder, Biogen said Tuesday in a statement. Shares fell 12 percent to $254.88 at 12:01 p.m. in New York, the biggest intraday drop since July 2015.

“While many investors were thinking the company would find some inconclusive reason to advance this program into phase 3, it sounds like the data were so underwhelming that even this may be a challenge,” Joshua Schimmer, an analyst with Piper Jaffray & Co., said in a note to clients Tuesday.

The 418-person trial, called Synergy, assessed the drug’s ability to treat patients with relapsing-remitting or secondary progressive MS. The primary endpoint was a gauge of their performance on a walking test, cognitive ability, upper-limb function and other measures of physical disability. Patients on the drug failed to do significantly better than those getting a placebo, the company said.

Biogen said it would continue to study the drug and did see signs of response to the treatment depending on what dose patients got.

“While we missed the primary endpoint, the Synergy study results suggest evidence of a clinical effect of opicinumab,” said Chief Medical Officer Alfred Sandrock. “Due to the complex nature of the data set, we continue to analyze the results to inform the design of our next study.”

Biogen makes most of its money from drugs treating MS and has been seeking new treatments to accelerate growth. Last year it said opicinumab showed a non-statistically-significant improvement in how fast those taking the treatment sent signals between the retina and the visual cortex, a possible sign that the drug could help repair some of the underlying issues with multiple sclerosis, a disease affecting the sheath that protects nerve cells.

Analysts expressed frustration with the company for not elaborating on the “complex, unexpected dose-response” it said the trial showed.

“For such a key piece of the Biogen story, the details of the press release were pretty thin,” Thomas Shrader, an analyst with Stifel Nicolaus & Co., said in a note to clients.

Biogen said the full results will be presented at future medical meetings.