Novartis launches Extavia®, the standard-of-care for relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis

NovartisNovartis has announced the launch of Extavia®, a new version of the standard-of-care for relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS), providing patients and physicians with an alternative option to help manage this devastating disease. Extavia, a new branded version of interferon beta-1b, is available initially in Germany and Denmark with other European launches to follow during 2009. It is approved to treat a broad range of patients, from those with early signs of MS to those with more advanced relapsing forms of the disease.

"Extavia will provide patients and physicians with an additional option for receiving a mainstay of care in MS," said Trevor Mundel, MD, Global Head of Development at Novartis Pharma AG. "This important first step also opens the way for Novartis to build supportive partnerships with the MS community and lays the foundations for providing innovative approaches to MS care."

Extavia is the same medicinal product as Betaferon®*, an interferon beta-1b. This has a well characterised efficacy and safety profile with more than 700,000 patient-years' experience[2] and a 17-year track record of clinical use - the longest for any interferon beta in the treatment of MS[3].

MS is estimated to affect up to 2.5 million patients worldwide and is one of the leading causes of neurological disability in young adults1. The disease typically presents in relapsing forms involving acute self-limiting attacks of neurological dysfunction (or "relapses"), followed by complete or partial restoration of function.

Data have shown that interferon beta-1b produces a 34% reduction in annualized relapse rates (p<0.001), and patients are almost twice as likely to remain relapse-free for over two years compared to those on placebo (31% vs. 16%, p=0.007)[4]. Treatment with interferon beta-1b can also slow disease progression. After two years, nearly three-quarters of patients who had experienced a single episode of neurological disease lasting at least 24 hours did not progress to clinically definite MS[5].

The launch of Extavia in Europe by the Pharmaceuticals Division of Novartis marks the beginning of a long-term commitment to meet the therapeutic needs of the MS community. This will include the establishment of a support program for Extavia users that will foster cross-communication between patients and their physicians and nurses. In turn, this will lay the foundations for future potential innovations in MS therapy. The rollout of Extavia in key EU countries is expected during the coming months.

Novartis acquired the rights to its own branded version of interferon beta-1b in an agreement with Bayer Schering, the company that markets Betaferon. In backing Extavia, Novartis brings over 50 years of neuroscience expertise and resources to the MS community. This expertise has helped to pioneer early breakthrough treatments for a number of neurological and pathological conditions, some of which remain important therapies to this day.

MS is a chronic autoimmune disease of the central nervous system that causes inflammation and neurodegeneration. Pathology is characterised by the destruction of myelin, which helps neurons carry electrical signals in the brain[6]. The disease causes problems with muscle control and strength, vision, balance, sensation and mental function[6].

The beneficial effects of interferon beta are believed to be due to its modulation of the immune system to reduce inflammatory damage. Specifically, interferon beta limits the activation of immune cells that attack myelin, suppresses the production of inflammatory cytokines - a type of protein that amplifies the inflammatory response causing damage to myelin - and stimulates the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines.

Extavia has been filed with the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of relapsing forms of MS to reduce the frequency of clinical exacerbations (or relapses). Patients with MS in whom efficacy has been demonstrated include those who have experienced a first clinical episode and have features consistent with MS as shown by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)[7].

Extavia is administered by subcutaneous (or under the skin) injection. Patients will have the choice of using either a fine (30 gauge) needle for manual injection or a convenient autoinjector.

* Betaferon® is a registered trademark of Bayer Schering Pharma AG.

About Novartis
Novartis AG provides healthcare solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies. Focused solely on healthcare, Novartis offers a diversified portfolio to best meet these needs: innovative medicines, cost-saving generic pharmaceuticals, preventive vaccines, diagnostic tools and consumer health products. Novartis is the only company with leading positions in these areas. In 2007, the Group's continuing operations (excluding divestments in 2007) achieved net sales of USD 38.1 billion and net income of USD 6.5 billion. Approximately USD 6.4 billion was invested in R&D activities throughout the Group. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis Group companies employ approximately 97,000 full-time associates and operate in over 140 countries around the world. For more information, please visit

[1] World Health Organization. Neurology atlas, 2004. Accessed 16 Jan 2009.
[2] FDA approves Betaseron® for use after the first event suggestive of multiple sclerosis [press release]. Wayne, NJ: Berlex: 23 October 2006.
[3] Ebers G, Traboulsee A, Langdon D, Goodin D, Konieczny A. The interferon beta-1b 16-year long-term follow-up study: the results. Presented at the 16th meeting of the European Neurological Society; 27-31 May, 2006.
[4] The IFNB Multiple Sclerosis Study Group. Interferon beta-1b is effective in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. Neurology. 1993;43:655-661.
[5] Kappos L, Freedman MS, Polman CH, et al. Effect of early versus delayed interferon beta-1b treatment on disability after a first clinical event suggestive of multiple sclerosis: a 3-year follow-up analysis of the BENEFIT study. Lancet. 2007;370:389-97.
[6] National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. Accessed January 12, 2009.
[7] Extavia proposed US Prescribing Information.