Shares in Israel’s Teva Pharmaceutical Industries have risen sharply after the company revealed better-than-expected first-quarter sales of its multiple sclerosis blockbuster Copaxone.

Revenues from Copaxone (glatiramer) rose 35% to $542 million, climbing 20% in the USA and, most impressively 64% outside that market. Much of that appears to be due to particularly strong growth in Europe where Copaxone’s MS market share has increased to 36% by April 1 from 31% at the beginning of the year.

Copaxone has also been benefiting from doctors in Europe switching patients onto Teva’s treatment from Biogen Idec’s Avonex (interferon beta-1a). The Petah Tikva-headquartered firm stated, however, that the “extraordinary growth rate for sales outside the US is not indicative of the growth expected in future quarters."

Teva added that it will give more details about the Copaxone rise on a conference call next week (May 6). The figures were released to coincide with Sanofi-Aventis’ figures as Teva discontinued a North American distribution deal for the MS drug with the French drugmaker on April 1. Sanofi is entitled to 25% of Copaxone revenues until 2010.