Biogen Idec has posted a strong set of financials for the fourth quarter which produced a near-doubling of profits.

Net income soared 84.4% to $201 million, or $0.67 per share, while revenues climbed 26.1% to $893 million, driven once again by Avonex (interferon beta-1a). Sales of the multiple sclerosis drug climbed 15% to $503 million, helped by increased international demand.

The rheumatoid arthritis and cancer drug Rituxan (rituximab) also did well, and revenues, which come from Biogen's joint venture with Genentech, rose 17% to $254 million. Best of all, however, was the performance of the new MS drug Tysabri (natalizumab), which is partnered with Elan and only returned to the market in July 2006 after being pulled off on safety concerns in February 2005.

Global Tysabri sales in the quarter reached $129 million and Biogen's share was $90 million, up from $18 million in the like, year-earlier period. By the end of the year, 21,000 people had been prescribed with the drug and Tysabri sales are likely to grow further after the US Food and Drug Administration approved it as a treatment of Crohn’s disease last month.

The results, which beat analysts’ expectations, should go some way to appeasing billionaire investor Carl Icahn who recently criticised the management at Biogen, in which he has a stake of around 4%, for their inability to find a buyer for the firm. Biogen took the ‘for sale’ signs down last month after no serious offers were made and on a conference call chief executive James Mullen defended the move. Mr Icahn had stated that the ”recent purported attempt to find a suitor was not conducted in a way to enhance the success of the endeavour'', but the CEO disagrees.

He said that Biogen had adopted an approach that was “professional, objective and thorough," and had made contact with around 20 potential buyers. However, Mr Mullen guessed that some of the big pharma firms who could afford an acquisition were put off somewhat by a perceived problem in the risk/benefit profile of Tysabri.

He concluded by saying that Biogen will “continue to explore all of our opportunities," but the future looks bright anyway. By 2010, the company's goal is to have four new products and/or existing drugs launched in new indications as well as six programmes in late-stage clinical development.