Biogen Idec Inc.: Tecfidera Continues Its Blistering Pace

Biogen's (BIIB) Tecfidera was one of 2013's best new launches.

Feb 6, 2014 at 6:30PM

It's hard not to say that Tecfidera qualifies as one of the most impressive drug launches of 2013. Sales of Biogen's (NASDAQ:BIIB) new multiple sclerosis treatment surged following the FDA's approval last spring.

The company's new oral alternative to its top-selling Avonex racked up $286 million in third quarter sales, far above the $200 million forecast by some industry analysts. Its rapid roll-out helped it capture $876 million in revenue in 2013, including $398 million in the fourth quarter. For comparison, in the most recent quarter reported, competitor drugs Gilenya by Novartis (NYSE:NVS)  earned $521 million and Aubagio by Sanofi (NYSE:SNY) brought in about $60 million. Tecfidera's swelling sales helped lift Biogen's full year sales 26% to nearly $7 billion last year.

BIIB Revenue (TTM) Chart

BIIB Revenue (TTM) data by YCharts

Opening act
Biogen's C-suite is likely smiling at its 2013 performance. Tecfidera blunts a lot of the risk tied to slowing sales for the company's $3 billion-a-year Avonex. That drug faces stiff competition from Novartis' Gilenya, a drug that outmatched Avonex during phase 3 trials. That superiority helped Novartis grow global sales of Gilenya 62% in 2013.

However, Gilenya's impressive success is being dwarfed by Tecfidera's. After only six months on the market, Tecfidera has already become the most widely prescribed of the three new oral drugs for treating MS relapses in the United States.

The fact that we're only in the early innings makes Tecfidera's story even more compelling. Tecfidera isn't available in most international markets yet, including Europe. Those overseas markets represent a big sales opportunity, given that roughly $900 million of Gilenya's $1.9 billion in sales came from outside the United States last year. Investors should also recognize that some of Gilenya's overseas sales success has come at the expense of Biogen's Avonex. Overseas sales of Avonex were essentially unchanged at $1.1 billion in 2013. Another $700 million worth of Biogen's international sales in 2013 came from its other MS drug, Tysabri. So the stakes and opportunity for Tecfidera in Europe are high. Analysts predict that up to a third of Tecfidera's peak $4 billion in annual revenue could eventually come from the region.

Executing is vital
Hitting analysts' projections means Tecfidera will need to shore up Biogen's European market share, capturing Avonex scripts that may otherwise be lost to Gilenya and Aubagio.

To that end, the company boldly delayed pressing for EU approval for Tecfidera until it could lock up Tecfidera's European designation as a new active substance. That designation came last fall, giving Tecfidera a 10-year window of rock-solid patent protection. Now that the European Commission has approved Tecfidera, Biogen will kick off price negotiations with individual countries.

Historically, such negotiations have been contentious. The U.K.'s chief price hawk previously balked at approving both Novartis' Gilenya and Sanofi's Aubagio, ostensibly based on their high cost. Gilenya and Sanofi cost $58,000 and $45,000 per year, respectively. It wasn't until those companies came back with aggressive discounts that U.K. regulators changed course.

As a result, the rollout of Tecfidera in Europe may be slow, steady, and deliberate. Biogen has already indicated that pricing in Europe may be as much as half of the $55,000 the company gets for the drug in the United States.

Fool-worthy final thoughts
Biogen has a blockbuster potentially worth billions a year in annual sales. If it plays its cards right, Tecfidera could significantly outstrip Avonex's peak sales, given that Avonex's $37,000 annual price tag is considerably less than Tecfidera's. Of course, that will mean blocking and tackling market share from Novartis and Sanofi. However, based on how quickly Tecfidera reached critical mass in the U.S., that may not prove too high a hurdle.

1 more company with big potential in 2014
There’s a huge difference between a good stock and a stock that can make you rich. The Motley Fool's chief investment officer has selected his No. 1 stock for 2014, and it’s one of those stocks that could make you rich. You can find out which stock it is in the special free report "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2014." Just click here to access the report and find out the name of this under-the-radar company.


Todd Campbell has no position in any stocks mentioned. Todd owns E.B. Capital Markets, LLC. E.B. Capital's clients may or may not have positions in the companies mentioned. Todd also owns Gundalow Advisors, LLC. Gundalow's clients do not have positions in the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.

Compare Brokers