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Novartis (NVS) Reports Positive Phase III Results on MS Drug

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Novartis AG NVS announced positive results from the phase III EXPAND study on its pipeline candidate, BAF312 (siponimod).

The randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study was evaluating the efficacy and safety of once-daily oral BAF312 in patients suffering from secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS).

Results showed that the study met its primary endpoint of a reduction in the risk of disability progression, compared with placebo.

Data from the study will be presented at the 32nd Congress of the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis (ECTRIMS) in London next month.

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Novartis’ multiple sclerosis (MS) portfolio currently includes Gilenya, approved for relapsing forms of MS. Gilenya is also being evaluated for pediatric MS. Another drug, Extavia (interferon beta-1b for subcutaneous injection) is approved in the U.S. for the treatment of relapsing forms of MS.

Meanwhile, the company’s MS pipeline comprises ofatumumab (OMB157), a fully human monoclonal antibody in development for relapsing MS. Phase III studies on the candidate will begin in the second half of 2016. Novartis’ generic arm, Sandoz markets Glatopa 20mg/mL, the first generic version of Teva Pharmaceutical’s TEVA Copaxone 20mg. A potential approval of BAF312 will further strengthen the MS portfolio.

We believe investors should keep an eye on an approval of new drugs and label expansion of existing ones at Novartis as the company has been facing stiff generic competition for some of its key drugs like Diovan and Gleevec.

Novartis currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). A couple of better-ranked health care stocks include Pacira Pharmaceuticals, Inc. PCRX and Corcept Therapeutics Incorporated CORT. Both these stocks sport a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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