Biogen Inc. (BIIB) is at the forefront of the biotechnology industry; one of the world’s most important and least understood sectors. With a market cap of $42 billion as of April 2021, the company’s product line consists of a handful of very expensive and highly effective drugs used to treat serious diseases including multiple sclerosis (MS), leukemia, and hemophilia.

Biogen specializes in therapies for neurological and neurodegenerative diseases. Unlike the products of many pharmaceutical companies, Biogen's drugs are not mass-marketed on prime-time television. If you want help with anxiety or weight gain, Biogen can’t help you. If you have any of several debilitating conditions, it can.

The year 2020 was not a great one for Biogen. It reported full-year revenues totaling $13.4 billion, a 6% decrease over the previous year. In 2021, it faces what it terms a "financial reset" with the introduction of a generic version of its most-prescribed MS drug therapy. However, it also is awaiting regulatory approval of a new treatment for Alzheimer's and has several other major new products in the pipeline.

Key Takeaways

  • Biogen is a large biotechnology company that makes a handful of very expensive and highly effective drugs.
  • Biogen's drugs focus on treating multiple sclerosis (MS), leukemia, and hemophilia.
  • The costs of Biogen's drugs are extremely high, approximately $7,000 a dose for many of the MS drugs.
  • Slightly over half of Biogen's revenues come from its MS drugs.

Treating MS

According to Biogen's own literature, 38% of multiple sclerosis sufferers worldwide use the company's drugs, earning the company $7.8 billion. The company manufactures just 10 drugs, and five of them are treatments for MS. They include Fumarate (Tecfidera and Vumerity), Interferon (Avonex and Plegridy), Tysabri, Fampyra, and Zinbryta.

Tecfidera, which costs approximately $144 per daily dose and is the best-selling oral MS drug in the U.S., will be facing competition from generics in 2021. It has been a multibillion-dollar contributor to Biogen’s revenues since its introduction in 2013.

Tecfidera is just one of Biogen’s MS drugs, though, and each carries a price tag commensurate with huge research and development costs, scarcity, and usefulness. Avonex is taken once a week by MS sufferers at a cost of approximately $7,500 per dose. Ampyra, formulated to make walking easier for MS sufferers, costs approximately $56 per tablet and is taken twice a day. Tysabri, a monthly infusion treatment administered by a professional, costs approximately $7,800 per dose.

Biogen claims that Tysabri has been administered more than two million times, thus accounting for a major component of the company’s revenue, more than $1.9 billion. In total, the company's MS medications make up 58% of Biogen’s sales.

Other Biogen Products

Biogen offers a leukemia-fighting drug called Gazyva for use domestically. Gazyva treatment costs approximately $7,200 for a dose. Rituxan, used to treat both lymphoma and rheumatoid arthritis, costs up to approximately $1,000 per dose.

Biogen doesn’t accomplish this entirely on its own. Rituxan and Gazyva, for instance, are sold in partnership with fellow pharmaceutical firm Genentech, while Swedish Orphan Biovitrum helps develop and bring Biogen’s hemophilia treatments to market.

The Bottom Line

Biogen’s pipeline of drugs should keep the company on a steady growth path for at least the next decade. While the company's concentration is in pharmaceuticals to treat multiple sclerosis, Biogen is diversifying by supporting existing drugs to treat cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, and hemophilia while developing new drugs to treat Alzheimer’s, lupus, and stroke.