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Biogen drug shows signs of promise

NEW YORK — Biogen Idec Inc. said Thursday its longer-lasting injectable multiple sclerosis drug, peginterferon beta-1a, helped reduce patients’ risk of relapse by 36 percent when given every two weeks, meeting the goals of a late-stage study.

The medicine reduced patients’ risk of flare-ups by 28 percent when dosed every four weeks compared with placebo, the Weston, Mass., firm said in a statement. Based on the results, Biogen said it plans to apply this year for regulatory approval in Europe and the United States.

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Peginterferon is a version of Biogen’s best-selling drug, Avonex, which is given by injection once a week. Avonex generated $2.7 billion in 2011 revenue. The longer-lasting drug would be deemed successful if it reduced the risk of relapse by at least 30 percent, said Michael Yee, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets.

The trial of more than 1,500 patients was part of the third and final stage of studies generally required for US approval. The drug was safe and tolerable across different dosing frequencies, Biogen said. The most common side effects were redness at the injection site and flu-like symptoms.

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