Actelion Using Combination Strategy to Attack Multiple Sclerosis

  • Experimental medicine ponesimod ‘ideal’ for combinations: CEO
  • Swiss drugmaker may enter crowded market for MS treatments

Brexit Not Good for the Pharma Industry, Says Clozel

Actelion Ltd. is seeking more effective treatments for people suffering from multiple sclerosis by following a strategy that’s worked in treating HIV, cancer and heart failure -- combining medicines to increase their potency.

The company has begun late-stage testing for its experimental medicine, ponesimod, which may work for people suffering from the most common type of multiple sclerosis, which affects roughly 85 percent of those diagnosed with the hard-to-detect and incurable disease. Ponesimod is being studied with Biogen Inc.’s Tecfidera as the first two-pill combination for MS, Actelion said Thursday in a statement.

“We have the ideal drug, ponesimod, which can be used in combination," Chief Executive Officer Jean-Paul Clozel said in an interview on Bloomberg Television on Thursday. "It’s a very busy market” but with one patient out of five having a new relapse every year, there is a need for more effective therapies, he said.

Actelion is diversifying its business, which leans heavily on pulmonary arterial hypertension treatments including Tracleer and newer replacements Uptravi and Opsumit. The Allschwil, Switzerland-based company is striving for a share of the multiple sclerosis market, which is dominated by bigger players such as Novartis AG and Biogen. Other potential new entrants such as Roche Holding AG are likely to shake up the market. Ponesimod is also being studied in comparison with another pill, Sanofi’s Aubagio.

Actelion reported third-quarter sales of 606 million Swiss francs ($612 million) and raised its forecast for the full year thanks to sales of its newest drug for pulmonary arterial hypertension, Uptravi.

Actelion fell 0.2 percent to 163.50 at 10:02 a.m. in Zurich. The stock has gained 17 percent this year.

— With assistance by Anna Edwards

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