US biotechnology company Biogen Idec reported a 10% increase in revenues to $596 million dollars in the third quarter of 2005, driven by gains for multiple sclerosis drug Avonex (interferon beta-1a).

However, third-quarter net income was shy of analysts’ expectations, coming in at $27 million, or 8 cents per share, down from $36.8 million or 10 cents per share a year ago. The fall was a result of charges related to an ongoing cost-reduction exercise at the firm, put in place in the wake of its withdrawal of MS treatment Tysabri (natalizumab) earlier this year [[01/03/05a]].

Avonex’ worldwide sales rose 8% to $375 million, while another major contributor was non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma drug Rituxan (rituximab). Biogen Idec’s share of revenues from this product, partnered with Genentech, climbed 14% to $182 million.

Charges of $136 million resulted from lingering merger costs, the sale of manufacturing facilities and severance and relocation payments. In early September, Biogen Idec said it would lay off 17% of its workforce to cut costs by $200 million. The company said it expected to eliminate 650 positions by the end of the year [[09/09/05d]].

Meanwhile, the US biotech has also been forced to write off $25 million in the quarter relating to Zevalin (ibritumomab tiuxetan), a radiopharmaceutical for NHL, which brought in just $5 million in sales, the same as it recorded in the same period of 2004. Meanwhile, psoriasis treatment Amevive (alefacept) – up for divestment after failing to fulfil its sales potential - rose 40% to $11.6 million in the quarter

On a more positive note - and after an encouraging safety review [[17/10/05b]] - Biogen Idec and partner Elan filed for approval to place Tysabri back on the US market last month. They have also submitted additional data to the European Medicines Agency (EMEA), which had not approved the drug before it was withdrawn in the USA [[01/03/05a]].

Biogen Idec also stands to benefit if Rituxan wins approval for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, an indication for which it was recently submitted for approval [[01/09/05f]].