Conflicting interests intersect on Betaseron

Lower-than-expected initial sales of Betaseron beta interferon illustrate two issues facing expensive new drugs: insurance company reimbursement and the lack of out-patient drug coverage for Medicare patients. The former is likely to be resolved quickly, while the latter is not.

Schering AG, the parent of Berlex Laboratories, which sells Betaseron in the U.S., last week reported 1993 sales of Dm7 million ($4 million), following the product's launch in October. The company blamed insurance reimbursement issues on the slow start, but predicted they would be resolved quickly. Chiron Corp. manufactures the drug.