by Leon Henderson, M.D.
Bennett Weintraub, Ph.D.
A new study published in the Lancet will impact the multiple sclerosis market. Data from the study support the use of Schering AG's Betaseron over Biogen's Avonex. The new information is the third major blow to Avonex - Serono's Rebif was approved in early March, negating Avonex's orphan status, and last week a Serono study suggested that Rebif was superior to Avonex after nearly a year follow-up.
One way Biogen may be able to boost Avonex use is to market it in combination with Antegren, which Biogen is developing with Élan. The companies began single-agent Antegren phase III trial this week, which will complement Antegren / Avonex combination trials.
Long-term follow-up supports the selective use of Abbott's fully human monoclonal D2E7, currently being reviewed for European and U.S. approval. In spite of these positive data, D2E7 is not likely to be used as first line therapy.
Also, Watson's PapSure was approved as an improvement to stand-alone Pap smear tests, and Merck KGaA revised estimates of European Erbitux regulatory submission dates, further raising concerns about the fate of ImClone's monoclonal antibody.