Would you rather inject yourself once a month or take a pill every day? Unless you're extremely needle-phobic, it's not an easy question to answer. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
The drug's efficacy looks pretty good. Patients taking once-monthly daclizumab had an annualized relapse rate 50% to 54% depending on the dose compared with patients taking a placebo. That's on par with BG-12 and certainly better than Teva Pharmaceuticals'
But the side-effect profile leaves something to be desired. Serious infections occurred in 2% of patients taking once-monthly daclizumab compared with 0% in placebo. That's not all that surprising, since the drug is designed to inhibit the immune system; Roche sells a version of daclizumab called Zenapax to treat organ-transplant patients.
The bigger worry might come from the 4% of patients whose liver enzyme levels were five times higher than normal, which is a good indicator that the drug might be damaging the liver. And since it's a monthly treatment, the drug will be in the system for quite awhile after doctors decide there's a problem.
Two patients taking once-monthly daclizumab died while in the study, although it wasn't clear the drug was the cause.
The mixed data is good enough for Biogen and its partner Abbott Labs
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Fool contributor Brian Orelli holds no position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Teva and Abbott. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Teva, Pfizer, and Abbott. 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.