More MS news articles for Oct 2001

Schering MS drug's efficacy rises over time-study

Friday October 5, 6:25 am Eastern Time

FRANKFURT, Oct 5 (Reuters) - German drugs group Schering AG said on Friday a study indicated its multiple sclerosis (MS) drug Betaferon was more effective than Biogen Inc's Avonex, especially when used over a longer period.

It said the study of 188 patients by researchers at the University MS Centre in Turin, Italy, showed that after a two-year period, 51 percent of patients treated with Betaferon avoided a relapse, higher than the 36 percent using Avonex.

"This means that patients treated with Betaferon have a 42 percent higher chance of remaining relapse-free after two years than those treated with Avonex," Schering said in a statement.

Schering's shares were trading up 0.8 percent at 60.50 euros by 1024 GMT, while the pan-European DJ Stoxx health index was up 0.9 percent. The stock is some 27 percent above its September 21 year low of 46.61 euros.

Schering said the study had also shown that patients using Betaferon -- known as Betaseron in the United States and Canada -- exhibited less damage to the brain than patients on Avonex.

Multiple sclerosis is a nerve disorder that can cause tingling, numbness, weakness and trembling in the arms, legs, body or face.

The report follows previous results from the study published in May, which showed that after six to 12 months of treatment, 84 percent of patients on Betaferon were relapse-free compared with 72 percent using Avonex.

In May, a Biogen spokeswoman said the Schering study contradicted previous research in 1996, that showed Avonex was clinically superior to Betaferon.

She said the Italian study was small and mainly gauged relapses of MS rather than reduction of symptoms or stopping the progression of the disorder.

Betaferon is Schering's top-selling drug, comprising 13 percent of group sales last year.

Copyright © 2001 Reuters Limited