On May 27, 2016, AbbVie (ABBV) and Biogen’s (BIIB) Zinbryta was approved by the FDA as a therapy for adults suffering from relapsing forms of MS (multiple sclerosis). On July 5, 2016, the European Commission (or EC) also approved the drug for commercialization in Europe. AbbVie launched this drug in the US market in August 2016.
AbbVie has estimated that ~2 million people across the world are affected by MS, which is a chronic disorder of the nervous system that continues to progress unpredictably. Generally, it affects females more than males and is more commonly witnessed by patients in the age group of 20–40 years.
If Zinbryta manages to capture a significant portion of the MS market, it could boost AbbVie’s share price as well as the price of the iShares Dow Jones US Healthcare ETF (IYH). AbbVie makes up about 3.6% of IYH’s total holdings.
Multiple sclerosis disease progression
The above diagram shows how MS progresses over time. In its R&D (research and development) Day transcript, AbbVie explains, “In MS, the immune system actually attacks the protein called Mylan which. . .forms a protective sheet around neurofibers. And what Mylan typically does is it actually increases the efficiency of communication from neuron to neuron. And when Mylan is damaged by disorders like MS, neurons can’t communicate effectively and that leads to the symptoms of patient manifest.”
AbbVie explains that while initially, the patient suffers multiple inflammatory relapses, MS also results in the inflammation of the central nervous system. However, as time passes, the rate of relapses as well as the capacity of the nervous system to regenerate decreases, leading to axonal loss and nerve atrophy.
Being a self-administered subcutaneous injection, Zinbryta is expected to significantly reduce the rate of relapses in MS patients. As MS patients generally have to switch to more effective therapies with varying safety profiles, after disease relapse, physicians are expected to prescribe drugs that are suitable for every individual’s requirement.
In the next article, we’ll study results from clinical trials conducted to test the efficacy and safety profile of Zinbryta.
Correction: This article originally implied that Zinbryta would launch later this month in the US market. However, as of the date of publication, the drug had already launched in the United States earlier this month. We have updated the post, and we regret this oversight.