Wednesday, Nov 18, 2009

Genentech and Biogen Idec Receive a Complete Response from the FDA for Rituxan for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia

South San Francisco, Calif. and Cambridge, Mass. -- November 18, 2009 --

Genentech, Inc., a wholly-owned member of the Roche Group (SIX: RO, ROG; OTCQX: RHHBY), and Biogen Idec (Nasdaq: BIIB) announced today that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a complete response on the companies applications for Rituxan® (rituximab) plus fludarabine and cyclophosphamide (FC) for the treatment of people with previously untreated and previously treated chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

The FDA has not requested any new data to complete its review of these applications. Genentech and Biogen Idec will continue final label discussions with the FDA and are committed to making Rituxan in combination with FC an FDA-approved option for people with CLL.

About Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
According to the American Cancer Society, CLL is the most common adult leukemia, accounting for one-third of all leukemia in the United States. Nearly 90,000 Americans are living with CLL and more than 15,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year. It is a slow-growing disease that occurs when too many abnormal white blood cells are found in the blood and bone marrow, making it difficult for the body to fight infection.

Rituxan in Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
These applications are based on data from two Phase III studies, CLL8 and REACH. Sponsored by Roche and conducted by the German CLL Study Group, CLL8 was a global, multi-center, randomized, open-label, Phase III study that enrolled 817 patients with previously untreated (first-line) CD20-positive CLL. REACH was a global, multi-center, randomized, open-label, Phase III study sponsored by Genentech, Biogen Idec and Roche that enrolled 552 patients with previously treated (relapsed or refractory) CD20-positive CLL who had not previously received Rituxan (Rituxan-naïve). Both studies evaluated Rituxan plus FC chemotherapy compared with FC chemotherapy alone. The primary endpoint for both studies was progression-free survival and secondary endpoints were overall survival, event-free survival, duration of response, response rate, complete response and toxicity.

About Rituxan
Rituxan is a therapeutic antibody that binds to a specific protein called CD20 found on the surface of cancerous and normal B-cells. In non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Rituxan works with the body's own immune system to eliminate CD20-positive B-cells. Stem cells (B-cell progenitors, those cells that give rise to B-cells) in bone marrow do not have the CD20 protein. B-cells usually regenerate after Rituxan treatment and return to normal levels in about 12 months for most patients.

Rituxan, discovered by Biogen Idec, first received FDA approval in November 1997 for the treatment of relapsed or refractory, low-grade or follicular, CD20-positive, B-cell NHL as a single agent. It was approved in the European Union under the trade name MabThera® in June 1998. Rituxan is also approved for the treatment of NHL for the following:

  • Previously untreated follicular, CD20-positive, B-cell NHL in combination with CVP chemotherapy.
  • Non-progressing (including stable disease), low-grade, CD20-positive, B-cell NHL as a single agent, after first-line CVP chemotherapy.
  • Previously untreated diffuse large B-cell, CD20-positive, NHL in combination with CHOP (or other anthracycline-based chemotherapy regimens).

Rituxan received FDA approval for RA in February 2006 and is currently indicated in combination with methotrexate for the treatment of adult patients with moderately-to severely-active RA who have had inadequate response to one or more tumor necrosis factor antagonist therapies.

Genentech and Biogen Idec co-market Rituxan in the United States, and Roche markets MabThera in the rest of the world, except Japan, where Rituxan is co-marketed by Chugai and Zenyaku Kogyo Co. Ltd.

Rituxan Safety
Rituxan therapy does involve risks. Life-threatening side effects related to Rituxan therapy include infusion reactions and kidney and skin problems, and progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML, a rare condition that causes nerve damage within the brain). Serious side effects have occurred in patients treated with Rituxan including hepatitis B virus infections with related serious liver problems, other viral infections, heart problems, kidney failure, and stomach and bowel problems.

The most common adverse reactions observed in Rituxan-treated patients include fever, headache, chills and shakes, nausea, itching, hives, cough, sneezing, and throat irritation or tightness. These usually occur within 24 hours after the first infusion. Other common side effects include headache, nausea, upper respiratory tract infection, and aching joints.

For additional safety information, please see the full prescribing information, including Boxed WARNINGS and Medication Guide, at 1-800-821-8590 or visit

About Genentech

Founded more than 30 years ago, Genentech is a leading biotechnology company that discovers, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicines to treat patients with serious or life-threatening medical conditions. The company, a wholly-owned member of the Roche Group, has headquarters in South San Francisco, Calif. For additional information about the company, please visit

About Biogen Idec
Biogen Idec creates new standards of care in therapeutic areas with high unmet medical needs. Founded in 1978, Biogen Idec is a global leader in the discovery, development, manufacturing and commercialization of innovative therapies. Patients in more than 90 countries benefit from Biogen Idec's significant products that address diseases such as lymphoma, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. For product labeling, press releases and additional information about the company, please visit

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