Ireland’s Elan saw its losses mount 21% to $143 million dollars during the second quarter of the year as the effects of withdrawing its multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri (natalizumab) took hold.

However, the figures masked strong growth in the rest of the business, with product revenues up 47% excluding Tysabri over the last year. Shane Cooke, chief financial officer, noted: “We are cautiously optimistic that with continued strong revenue growth and careful and disciplined cost management, this business, excluding Tysabri, will get to our target of break-even on an EBITDA basis, by the end of 2005. While we await the outcome of the ongoing Tysabri safety evaluation, we continue to prudently invest in Tysabri and remain capable and committed to re-introducing it as a therapeutic option for patients should it be appropriate. We also made progress with our capital structure during the quarter, retiring over $240 million in 2008 debt while retaining over $1.15bn in cash.”

Tysabri was suspended from the market in March, after one fatality linked to a rare brain disease [[01/03/05a]]. This number has now reportedly risen to five [[14/06/05c]], sending shares in Elan and partner Biogen Idec reeling yet again.

And, most recently, the companies have been hit by a wrongful death lawsuit from the family of a woman receiving Tysabri plus Biogen Idec’s MS drug Avonex (interferon beta-1a) in a clinical trial [[22/07/05h]]. "Before Tysabri was approved, its manufacturers were aware that the drug's use, in combination therapy with Avonex, was dangerous," commented Jerrold Parker of law firm Parker & Waichman. "This blatant disregard for patient safety caused tremendous suffering for Mrs Smith and her family. It certainly appears that combination therapy was proposed by Biogen in an effort to maintain the relevance of Avonex in the marketplace following Tysabri's introduction."