Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Swedish partner Active Biotech have announced plans to start a second large late-stage study of their oral investigational multiple sclerosis compound laquinimod.

The firms noted that patients are being enrolled for BRAVO, a Phase III 24-month, double-blind study designed to evaluate laquinimod versus placebo, and to provide risk-benefit data for the drug compared to Biogen Idec’s injectable blockbuster MS treatment, Avonex (interferon beta-1a). The study, which was initiated in April, aims to enroll 1,200 patients with relapsing-remitting MS.

The news about BRAVO comes after Teva, already a major player in the MS market with the injectable Copaxone (glatiramer acetate), gave details in November last year about another major Phase III trial of laquinimod called ALLEGRO. That study is looking to recruit around 1,000 patients.

Timothy Vollmer of the Rocky Mountain MS Center in Denver and principal investigator of the BRAVO study noted that all currently approved MS treatments are administered via injection or infusion. Therefore, “the ability to provide a safe and effective oral treatment option would be a significant advancement,” he added, noting that “the mode of action for laquinimod is unlike any other MS compound, existing or experimental”.

Barr shares soar over rumour
Meantime, a report from Israel is claiming that Teva is in talks to acquire rival generic firm Barr Pharmaceuticals.

The Globes business newspaper, citing undisclosed sources, claims that the Petah Tikva-headquartered firm may be preparing a bid of over $5 million to buy the New Jersey-based group. Neither company cared to comment on the rumour but Barr shares shot up 20% in extended trading last night.