Israel’s Teva Pharmaceutical Industries has received some disappointing clinical news about the blockbuster Copaxone which has failed to prove effective as a treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

The company has revealed data from a 366-patient Phase II trial of the multiple sclerosis Copaxone (glatiramer acetate) which was being investigated to see if it could reduce functional deterioration in patients with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. It showed that 40mg of Copaxone was safe and well-tolerated, but the study's primary and secondary endpoints, that of increased survival, were not met.

ALS is a degenerative motor neuron disease that leads to paralysis and ultimately, to death, usually within three-five years from disease onset. The symptoms include muscle weakness in limbs, muscle twitching and cramping, speech impediments, difficulty swallowing and respiratory impairment. Over 10,000 people in the USA and Europe are diagnosed with ALS each year.

Vincent Meininger from Hopital de la Salpetriere, Paris and principal investigator of the study, said that “despite our hopes and desires”, and similar to other drug candidates for the treatment, Copaxone did not prove beneficial for ALS patients. However he was pleased to note that Teva has not given up on Lou Gehrig’s and will “continue developing innovative treatment options such as talampanel for such a devastating disease".

Copaxone is a very big earner for Teva and brought in $436 million in the fourth quarter, an increase of 15%, which makes it the leading therapy for MS in the USA.