Schering, Biogen, Serono MS drugs may lose effect after 1 yr


FRANKFURT (AFX) - Multiple sclerosis (MS) products from Schering AG, Biogen Inc and Serono AG may lose their efficacy after one year, reported The Lancet medical journal. The Lancet has published details of seven trials carried out on 1215 patients.

"Interferons slightly reduce the number of patients who have exacerbations (relapses) during the first year of treatment. Their clinical effect beyond one year is uncertain and new trials are needed to assess their long-term effectiveness and side-effects," said the journal. Interferon is the compound used to treat MS, a chronic neurological disease that affects over 1 mln people worldwide. "Our review of the article raises several questions about the validity of the author's conclusions," said Schering spokeswoman Claudia Schmitt.

Schering's MS product Betaferon is the company's top selling drug, with 783 mln eur sales in 2002. "The analysis included two small studies with interferon, which have never been proven to be effective in MS," said Schmitt. Schering, Biogen and Serono's MS products are all beta interferons, which are recognised as effective treatments of MS. Schmitt added that all studies were varied in dose and frequency of dosing, which makes a conclusion questionable.

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