The first six weeks of 2014 have been prosperous for investors in Biogen Idec (NASDAQ: BIIB ) .
Indeed, shares in the biotechnology company have risen by more than 14%, easily beating the less than 1% gain the Nasdaq has collected over the same period.
The story was the same over the last year, with Biogen Idec delivering a 94% gain while the Nasdaq rose a lowly (in comparison) 31%.
If investors in Biogen Idec need more to cheer about, the launch of its new multiple sclerosis drug, Tecfidera, in Europe appears to be additional encouraging news flow for the business.
The European Union regulatory agency approved the drug for patients with relapsing multiple sclerosis, which is the most common form of the immune disease. Studies have shown that Tecfidera is able to reduce the number of relapses of the disease, which primarily impacts the spinal cord and brain.
The potential for relatively high sales of Tecfidera in Europe is clear; since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the product in March 2013 it has become the top-selling drug in the United States for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. Therefore, news of the launch in Europe could mean a ramp-up in sales for Biogen Idec in 2014.
This month's positive news on Tecfidera comes shortly after Biogen Idec reported an upbeat fourth quarter of 2013, with the market reacting well to both development.
Total sales in the fourth quarter of 2013 were up 39%, to $2 billion, versus the fourth quarter of 2012, with generally accepted accounting principles diluted earnings per share improving by 56% from the year-ago quarter. A key reason for such impressive top and bottom-line growth was a 45% growth in revenue for Crohn's disease and MS drug Tysabri, which Biogen attributed to the acquisition of the complete rights for the therapy in the second quarter of 2013 and the subsequent inclusion of the complete rights for the fourth-quarter numbers.
Biogen Idec also continues to enjoy positive pipeline updates (such as the aforementioned approval for Tecfidera in Europe) and expects six data readouts for several compounds currently in early to midstage clinical trials during 2014. In addition, the company plans three new potential product launches this year -- two treatments for patients with hemophilia and the first pegylated interferon for multiple sclerosis.
Of course, Biogen Idec isn't the only biotechnology company to enjoy a relatively strong fourth quarter. Sector peers Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN ) and Alexion (NASDAQ: ALXN ) both posted positive numbers, which in Alexion's case led to an upgrade for the company's forecast for 2014 sales on the back of stronger than expected sales of blood disorder drug Soliris.
Meanwhile, Amgen delivered 13% growth in revenue in the fourth quarter, with as many as eight projected milestones for innovative late-stage clinical programs due in 2014 alone.
All three stocks have easily outperformed the Nasdaq's 0.3% gain this year, rising 31% (Alexion), 14% (Biogen Idec), and 6% (Amgen).
The three companies could be in for a strong 2014 featuring anticipated pipeline updates and new product launches.
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