Nycomed is in the news again this time having secured Forest Laboratories as a partner to sell its lung disease drug Daxas in the USA.

Under the terms of the deal, Forest is paying a $100 million upfront fee for the US rights to Daxas (roflumilast), a once-daily oral treatment for patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The drug, a phosphodiesterase 4 enzyme inhibitor, was filed in the USA last month, and Nycomed will receive additional undisclosed milestone payments (thought to possibly be in the region of $500 million), plus royalties.

Forest will assume responsibility for the US regulatory approval and commercialisation of Daxas and the companies said they will “collaborate on future development programmes”. Nycomed retains the rights to Europe, where Daxas was filed in May, and the rest of the world.

Howard Solomon, Forest’s chief executive, said that Daxas, “represents the first in a new class of agents to treat COPD and would be the first oral agent to be approved for this debilitating disease”. His counterpart at Nycomed, Hakan Bjorklund, said the Zurich-based firm had received “considerable interest” to the drug but Forest is “the best possible partner” in the USA.

He added that Forest has a “significant national sales force (some 2.700-strong), an increasing focus on respiratory products and an unrivalled track record of partnering with European companies to build hugely successful franchises”. The US firm’s biggest-seller by far is the antidepressant Lexapro (escitalopram), licensed from Denmark’s Lundbeck which will go off-patent in the next few years.

If approved, Daxas will compete with Boehringer Ingelheim/Pfizer’s Spiriva (tiotropium), GlaxoSmithKline's Advair/Seretide (salmeterol and fluticasone) and AstraZeneca’s Symbicort (budesonide/formoterol). Analysts believe that the drug, the first anti-inflammatory that has been specifically designed for COPD, could be a blockbuster.