There was another dose of bad news for Biogen Idec’s product portfolio late last week, after radiopharmaceutical drug Zevalin (ibritumomab tiuxetan) had its labelling changed to warn of a rare but serious skin disorder.

The severe cutaneous or mucocutaneous reactions – fatal in some cases – have been seen in post-marketing surveillance of Zevalin, which was first launched in the USA in February 2002 and more recently started to be rolled out in Europe by Schering AG [[06/06/04g]]. Similar events have been associated with Biogen Idec/Genentech’s Rituxan (rituximab), which is used alongside Zevalin in the treatment of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Zevalin has been something of a disappointment for Biogen Idec, failing to live up to its initial sales promise and achieving revenues of just $5 million in the third quarter of this year, down from a high of around $20 million in the quarters following its launch [[27/10/05c]]. The drug has been held back by side effects, seen in trials, which led it to be reserved for use only in NHL patients who do not respond to Rituxan alone.

Meanwhile, Schering also has modest expectations for the product, expecting peak sales of around $50 million in 2007.