Elan Corp says that its first-quarter loss fell to $2 million, compared with $102.6 million a year ago, thanks to strong performance from its multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri.

Sales for the quarter rose 27% to $310.5 million, driven by Tysabri (natalizumab), global turnover for which climbed 28% to $291.9 million. Elan’s share of sales from the drug, which is marketed with Biogen Idec, reached $198.8 million, up 25%.

As for the Dublin-headquartered company’s other products, the antibiotic Maxipime (cefepime), which was ravaged during the year by generic competition, brought in $3.8 million, down 24%, but Azactam (aztreonam), another antibiotic, increased 48% to $25.5 million,. The severe pain treatment Prialt (ziconotide), which is being divested to Azur Pharma, increased 12% to $4.6 million.

Sales at the Elan Drug Technologies business shot up 28% to $76.4 million. Earlier this week, the company said it is exploring the possibility of a separation of EDT which would create two distinct publicly-listed firms, Elan BioNeurology and EDT. A decision whether to proceed will be made in the coming months.
Chief financial officer Shane Cooke said that for 2010, “we remain on target to record revenue growth, adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation of more than $150.0 million and, for the first time in several years, operating profits before other charges or gains”.

Ian Hunter, an analyst at Dublin stockbroker Goodbody, described the figures as a solid set of numbers, with losses lower than expected (he thought it would be about $25 million). He was also presently surprised by the performance of the EDT unit, boosted by the shipment of goods to partner Acorda for the product launch of the multiple sclerosis treatment Ampyra (dalfampridine), rather than actual sales.