US biotechnology company Biogen Idec has announced that its experimental oral pill for the treatment of multiple sclerosis significantly reduced relapse rates in people with relapsing-remitting MS, in a Phase III trial.

The company confirmed that the compound, BG-12, met the study’s primary endpoint by reducing annualised relapse rates by 44% in patients who took two daily doses of the drug, and by 51% in patients who took three daily doses.

The pill tested against Teva Pharmaceuticals’ injectable drug Copaxone (glatiramer acetate) which was found to reduce annualised relapse rates by 29% compared with a placebo at two years.

Biogen Idec said in a statement that further analyses of the study are ongoing, and it anticipates presenting detailed data at a future medical meeting.

Vice-president of R&D Doug Williams added, "We now have strong positive results for BG-12 in two robust pivotal clinical trials with more than 2,600 patients.

"We are gratified by these strong efficacy and safety results, which, when combined with BG-12’s oral route of administration, position it as a potentially important multiple sclerosis therapy.

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"We are working aggressively to prepare our regulatory submissions with the goal of making BG-12 available to multiple sclerosis patients as quickly as possible."