Biogen Idec has posted fourth-quarter results which show that sales of its oral multiple sclerosis drug Tecfidera have comfortably passed analyst forecasts, pushing group profits up 57%.

Net income came in at $457.3 million, while revenues increased 39% to $1.97 billion. The biggest earners were the MS drugs Avonex (interferon beta-1a), which were flat at  $751.5 million and Tysabri (natalizumab), which contributed $426.6 million, up 45%.

However, the performance of Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate), caught the eye again, bringing in $397.6 million. Chief executive George Scangos said on a conference call (the transcript for which is on the Seeking Alpha website), that the launch "now ranks among the best in the biopharmaceutical industry".

Stuart Kingsley, head of global commercial operations, added that "according to our data, through December, over 6,000 physicians, representing approximately 85% of total MS prescription volume, have prescribed Tecfidera". Additionally, over 30% of new patients in the fourth quarter  were not on prior therapies.

Quick Tecfidera launch set for Germany

Texfidera is still waiting for the final green light in Europe and when approved, Mr Kingsley said "it's our intent to quickly launch in Germany, followed by staggered launches in other EU countries over the next six to 18 months".

As for Biogen's other products, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer drug Rituxan (rituximab) and the recently-approved chronic lymphocytic leukaemia treatment Gazyva (obinutuzumab) partnered with Roche brought in $303 million, up 5%. Fampyra, a prolonged-release formulation of fampridine to improve walking in adults with MS licensed from Acorda Therapeutics, climbed 65% to $17.3 million, while the psoriasis treatment Fumaderm (fumaric acid) fell 11% to just over $14 million.

Dr Scangos added that Biogen has earmarked $200 million for business development activities "to bolster our pipeline and we're looking primarily for Phase I, Phase II compounds, maybe late preclinical". For the full year, revenues are expected to grow 22%-25%.