Losses at Ireland’s Elan Corp have increased for the first quarter, but sales of its multiple sclerosis treatment Tysabri have led to healthy revenue growth.

Net loss rose to $102.6 million from $85.5 million in the like, year-earlier period, while revenues climbed 14% to $245.1 million. The rise was driven by Tysabri (natalizumab) and global sales of the drug, which is marketed with Biogen Idec, reached $227.5 million, up 42%.

Elan’s share of the Tysabri revenues increased 48% to $158.7 million, while generic competition savaged sales of the antibiotic Maxipime (cefepime), down 50% to $5.0 million. Azactam (aztreonam), another antibiotic, fell 29% to $17.2 million due to supply shortages and Elan said that the drug is expected to be negatively impacted by generic competition, although no copycat version has been approved yet.

Sales at the Elan Drug Technologies (EDT) business fell 14% to $59.7 million, and the future of the unit is one of the subjects that form part of a strategic review. Observers are keen to see what changes this review, led by Citigroup will result in but they willl have to wait a while longer, it appears.

Chief executive Kelly Martin said that “this process is continuing and we remain committed to exploring and objectively assessing all available options that balance the short-, intermediate- and long-term opportunities”. However on a conference call, Mr Martin said that "given our pipeline and size of potential coverage, the best option for Elan would be to have a partnership with a large pharmaceutical company that would allow us access to existing global infrastructure".

Pipeline-wise, Elan added that on bapineuzumab, its investigational compound for Alzheimer’s disease partnered with Wyeth, the US Phase III ApoE4 non-carrier trial is 60% enrolled, with Elan guiding full enrolment by the end of the year. The firms stopped testing the highest dose of bapineuzumab, due to safety concerns, earlier this month.

Separately, Elan and partner Transition Therapeutics have this morning announced that they have been granted a key patent for their Alzheimer's disease treatment with ELND005, which involves administration of scyllo-inositol, which will expire in 2025. ELND005 is an orally administered drug, which has the action of affecting the aggregation of beta amyloid in the brain and is being jointly developed by the two companies in a 340-patient Phase II clinical trial.

Analyst Ian Hunter at Irish broker Goodbody said that Elan had reported a solid set of figures “with little surprises”. He noted that “no new information was given on the strategic review and no timeline was forthcoming”. The impression given by management “was that the process is going to take longer than first expected”, he said.