Sales force triggered Tysabri uptick

Biogen Idec and Elan's MS drug Tysabri realized a 15% increase in US revenues during the third quarter (compared with Q3 2009), a gain at least partially due to larger sales forces and increased patient assistance programs, according to Biogen Idec executives.
Additional sales reps were hired this year, and pre-existing sales forces were “strengthened” with additional training and communication tools, said Francesco Granata, EVP, global commercial operations, in an earnings call. A spokesperson for the company declined to quantify the sales force increase, or provide an approximate number of total reps working on the brand.
Compliance rates for patients on Tysabri were stable during 2010, said Paul Clancy, Biogen Idec's chief financial officer, on the earnings call, adding that some 23,000 new patients had been prescribed the drug, which also picked up an indication for Crohn's disease in January. To underscore the importance of compliance, the company launched a new MS nursing initiative, said Granata on the call. Biogen Idec is the MS “commercial lead” for Tysabri in the US, and Elan markets the drug for Crohn's in the US, according to Weiss.
While sales forces were increased in neurology, Biogen Idec announced on November 3 that it would restructure the business, terminating cardiovascular medicine and spinning off or out-licensing its oncology assets. As a result, the company will eliminate its oncology and rheumatology sales forces, including 123 reps working on Rituxan, a cancer drug, according to Naomi Aoki, a Biogen Idec spokesperson. Roche-owned Genentech, Biogen Idec's partner on Rituxan, will assume full commercial responsibilities for the drug. The restructuring process, overseen by Biogen Idec CEO George Scangos—who was appointed to the role over the summer—will result in a 13% job cut, or 650 full time positions, according to a statement on the restructuring.
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