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New clinical trial will compare MS drugs

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. Swiss drug maker Biogen Idec and Irish drug maker Elan Corp. have started enrolling patients into a late-stage study to evaluate switching from two multiple sclerosis drugs to their own, the two companies announced Friday.

The phase 3b trial will enroll 1,800 MS patients in 27 countries to see how well they fare when switching from Teva’s Copaxone (glatiramer acetate) or Merck KGaA’s Rebif (interferon beta-1a) to Biogen Idec’s and Elan’s Tysabri (natalizumab). Merck KGaA operates in the United States under the trade name EMD to avoid confusion with Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based Merck & Co., a separate company.

“Despite being on therapy, many MS patients still experience disease progression, resulting in a loss of physical abilities and permanent damage to the central nervous system,” trial advisory committee chairman and Cleveland Clinic multiple sclerosis researcher Richard Rudick said in a statement. “Currently, there is limited data to inform decisions about how to switch in patients who have disease activity while on therapy.”

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