Thursday November 8, 7:13 am Eastern Time
TEL AVIV, Nov 8 (Reuters) - An Investec Securities analyst said on Thursday he believes Israel's Teva Pharmaceutical Industries (NasdaqNM:TEVA - news) will likely abandon development of an oral version of its Copaxone drug for multiple sclerosis.
Interim results of a trial of an oral version of Copaxone released in September were disappointing. Teva has said full results would be ready by the end of 2001 or early 2002.
A Teva spokesman said once the final results were ready Teva and Danish partner Lundbeck would jointly decide how to proceed.
Teva shares traded in Tel Aviv were down 2.2 percent in afternoon trade at 259 shekels.
"Assuming that the final results of the phase II study will be similar to the preliminary results, which is very likely, we now feel it likely that the oral Copaxone development will be abandoned," Investec analyst Kobby Finkelstein said in a report.
"Given the disappointing preliminary results of the oral Copaxone study and in light of Biogen's (NasdaqNM:BGEN - news) Antegren encouraging phase II results, it seems too risky to proceed with the development of the oral Copaxone," he said.
Biogen is currently testing an MS treatment called Antegren with Irish biotech company Elan Corp (NYSE:ELN - news).
Teva's new version of Copaxone would be the first oral treatment for MS. Teva's chief financial officer Dan Suesskind told Reuters last week: "The chances of dropping the product (oral Copaxone) are slim."
Analyst Finklestein said Antegren is administered once a month and showed a higher efficacy rate in the trial than existing treatments, including Copaxone.
Even if Teva decides to continue development of oral Copaxone, Danish partner Lundbeck is not obligated to cover the costs of an additional trial, Finklestein said.
Finklestein said Investec discussed the matter by telephone with Lundbeck management.
"They confirmed that if the final results will be similar to the preliminary results, they would probably not continue to support the oral Copaxone development," he said.
($1 equals 4.27 shekels)
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