Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tysabri Leads Biogen Idec Revenue Growth

Tysabri revenues have been an issue for investors ever since the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) therapy was held to contribute to patient deaths from PML (Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy). Biogen Idec (BIIB) had to take Tysabri off the market, then reintroduce it with warnings and with PML detection awareness. Other than the PML issue, Biogen Idec has promoted Tysabri as a sort of wonder drug for MS, and apparently plenty of doctors and patients agree the benefits are worth the risks. In the first quarter of 2009 Tysabri revenue was $165 million, up 44% from the year-earlier quarter.

Overall revenues in Q1 were $1.03 billion, down a tad from $1.07 billion in Q4 but up 10% from year-earlier. Not bad during a recession. Biogen's main MS therapy, Avonex, showed a 4% y/y revenue gain, to $536 million for the quarter. Rituxan, reported as unconsolidated joint business revenue, contributed $279 million.

For more details on the quarter, see my Biogen Idec Analyst Conference Summary for Q1 2009.

Consider the entire field of therapies for autoimmune diseases such as MS. Therapies will suppress the immune response. To some extent this will result in overall immune system response, and that will open the patient up to potential infections. It is very difficult to take all the risk out of something as complicated as the human body.

Tysabri actually seems to repair (or allow the body to repair) damage caused by MS, and can be discontinued if an infection occurs. As long as PML cases remain rare, and given the grim outcome of MS progression, it makes sense for patients to want to try Tysabri.

With Tysabri continuing to grow revenue, and with a strong development pipeline, I expect Biogen to continue to grow revenues and profits. There is the usual downside danger from competition and further adverse reactions to Biogen therapies, but I believe they are relatively minimal, and accounted for in the stock price.

I own some Biogen stock, as well as other biotech stocks.

Openicon Biogen Idec page with links to past analyst conference summaries
My Biotech Investing help page


  1. I was blown when I saw these figures. I always thought that pharmaceutical companies makes big profit but these numbers blew my mind. And all that money comes from the poor patients who dreams to lead a normal life. This is so wrong on many levels, but unfortunately this is the reality of the world we live in.

  2. The figures above are for revenue, not profit, but yes, profits are good, if you look at this one successful company. But a wider view will show the billions "lost" every year in efforts to develop new therapies. More often then not novel therapies do not get FDA approval or do not sell well if approved. Clinical trials are very expensive. Biotechnology as a whole is not something I would recommend for those wanting a predictable, profitable return. Biogen, however, remains a good investment.