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A new multiple sclerosis drug developed by Biogen and Alkermes was approved Wednesday as both companies face significant challenges.

The Food and Drug Administration approved the oral drug Vumerity to treat relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis, a serious chronic disease that affects the central nervous system. The disorder stems from overactive immune cells that cause inflammation, and can result in debilitating symptoms, including difficulty walking and seeing.


Biogen, of Cambridge, Mass., already markets four drugs for multiple sclerosis, including Tecfidera, which generated more than $4 billion in sales last year. But Vumerity caused fewer gastrointestinal problems than Tecfidera in clinical trials while providing comparable benefits, according to both companies.

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