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Death ‘likely unrelated’ to MS pill

The biotechnology company Biogen Idec Inc. said Monday that it was investigating the death of a patient who took its new multiple sclerosis pill, Tecfidera.

But the Weston company said the death was “likely unrelated” to the medication, based on preliminary findings.

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Spokeswoman Kate Niazi-Sai said company safety officials learned late last week that a 59-year-old woman who had taken Tecfidera for 5½ weeks died 2½ weeks after she stopped taking the pill.

Niazi-Sai said the patient discontinued taking Tecfidera because of gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

But the cause of death was bilateral pneumonia, a condition that occurs more frequently in multiple sclerosis patients than in the general public, Niazi-Sai said.

Apparently, gastrointestinal issues did not cause the death, the Biogen Idec spokeswoman said.

In a note to investors, a biotechnology analyst, Mark Schoenebaum of ISI Group in New York, described the event as a “non-issue” for Biogen Idec.

Robert Weisman can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeRobW.
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