Biogen Idec said yesterday an orally-active drug for multiple sclerosis, BG-12, achieved its targets in a Phase II trial.

BG-12 is being developed alongside privately-held Swiss firm Fumapharm and was being studied in patients with the relapsing-remitting form of MS.

Treatment with BG-12, a fumarate compound, caused a statistically-significant reduction in the total number of MS brain lesions, as measured by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), after six months of treatment versus placebo.

Fumapharm has licensed exclusive worldwide rights to develop and market BG-12 to Biogen Idec.

Market research firm Datamonitor predicts that the launch of oral drugs for MS will expand the market for treatments for the disease from $2.8 billion dollars in 2003 to more than $6 billion in 2012, with the most successful drug in the category easily achieving sales in excess of a billion dollars.

Other companies developing oral drugs for MS include:

  • Novartis with FTY720, just starting a Phase III trials programme;
  • Serono with its Mylinax (cladribine) candidate in Phase III trials;
  • Sanofi-Aventis with teriflunomide (Phase III);
  • GlaxoSmithKline and Tanabe with 683699 (Phase II); and
  • Teva with an oral version of its injectable Copaxone (glatiramer acetate; in Phase II) as well as laquinimod (Phase II), licensed from Sweden's Active Biotech.