Feb. 3, 2004
The Jerusalem Post
Serono SA, the largest biotechnology company in Europe, said Tuesday it has initiated a head-to-head trial comparing its Rebif multiple sclerosis treatment with Teva's flagship Copaxone drug.
The trial will span over two years, and observe incidents of relapse and other clinical and MRI secondary events. Rebif came out ahead in a similar test Serono ran recently, which pitted Rebif against another treatment, Avonex.
In its earnings report released Tuesday, the Swiss company said fourth-quarter net income rose 37% to $111.6m., or $7.04 a share, from $81.6m., or $5.14 a share, a year earlier, as sales jumped 29% to $565.1m. For the year, net profit rose 22% to $390m., while revenues rose 31.3% to $2 billion.
Serono, which receives nearly half of its revenues from Rebif, has been marketing the drug aggressively. Worldwide sales of Rebif rose by 36% to $233.2m. in the fourth quarter, and full-year sales of rose 49% to $819.4m.
US sales totaled $188.5m. for the year, representing an increase of 164.8% in the $2b. market, while European sales increased by 39% to $436.8m. Serono said Rebif was the fastest growing MS therapy in the US last year, as it more than doubled its market share, and predicted the drug will lead the worldwide market by the end of 2006.
Copaxone's global market share is currently estimated at 30%.
The rivalry between the two companies goes deeper than just market share. Rebif was developed by Interpharm in Ness Ziona, where it is manufactured. Among Interpharm's founders some 25 years ago was one Israel Makov, who currently serves as Teva's president and CEO. Interpharm's current head, Ezra Uziel, also spent a number of years at Teva.
Serono said in November it will build a new factory in Israel. The company's
investment in the plant will be between $50m. and $60m.
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