Biogen Inc., maker
of the top-selling multiple sclerosis drug Avonex, said patent expirations
and a dispute with Schering-Plough Corp. may decrease royalty revenue by
almost half this year. The decrease is already reflected in Biogen's January
forecast of earnings of 45 to 46 cents a share for the first quarter and
$1.90 a share for all of 2001, the company said. Royalty revenue in 2001
will be $85 million to $95 million, a drop from $165 million last year,
Biogen said. Schering-Plough stopped paying royalties to Biogen on its
Interferon-alpha compound in January, when Biogen's European patent on
the drug expired, a Biogen spokeswoman said. "We all knew about this risk
factor, but the magnitude of change in royalty was higher than expected,"
said Elise Wang, an analyst with UBS Warburg. For Biogen's earnings forecast
to remain the same, either Avonex sales will have to be higher than anticipated,
or the company will have to "cut back research and development expenditures,"
Wang said. Shares of Cambridge, Mass.-based Biogen fell as low as $62.88
in trading after the close of U.S. markets, after closing at $65.06, up
75 cents, on Nasdaq.