Biogen Idec says that fourth-quarter profits almost doubled, despite some fairly heavy charges, while revenues were up 12% to $708 million, driven once again by the multiple sclerosis drug Avonex.

Net income was $108.6 million or $0.32 per share, up 95.3% on the like, year-earlier period, and excluding charges, mainly relating to the Biogen and Idec merger in 2003 and the acquisitions of Conforma and Fumapharm last year, profits would have reached $184 million.

Sales of Avonex (interferon beta-1a) increased 6% to $439 million and revenues from Rituxan (rituximab), which come from Biogen’s joint venture with Genentech, rose 20% to $218 million.

Global sales of new MS drug Tysabri (natalizumab), which is partnered with Elan and only returned to the market in July after being pulled off on safety concerns in February 2005, reached $30 million and Biogen’s share was $18 million.

Tysabri's reintroduction came with restrictions to monitor patients for symptoms of the rare brain disease PML (progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy) but nearly 10,000 people have been prescribed with the drug and the company is confident that Tysabri will further penetrate the MS market.

Biogen added that it expects total revenue growth in 2007 to be in the mid-teens percentage-wise and earnings should be in the range of $1.69-$1.84 per share, excluding any future transactions or acquisition. The results fell a little short of analysts’ estimates and Biogen's shares slipped over 3% percent, with many investors worrying about the set-up of the Genentech JV, as the latter has claimed that it has the option to purchase full rights to Rituxan.