UK drugmaker GW Pharma has turned in an impressive set of results for the year ended September 30, 2010, and says it is well along its transformation from a development stage company to a commercial biopharmaceutical business.

Shares in the group were given a boost (up 8% by afternoon trading following the announcement) on the London Stock Exchange, as investors reveled in news of the company's financial performance, as well the start of Phase III trials of its flagship drug Sativex  (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol) in cancer pain.

Net profit before tax rocketed from £1.2 million to £4.6 million for the year, as sales leapt 27% to £30.7 million, driven by an increase in turnover of Sativex, which leapt 64% to £2.8 million, primarily as a result of its UK commercial launch by Bayer in the last three months of GW's financial year.

The company ended the 12-month period with £25.2 million cash in its back pocket, marking a net inflow of £4.6 million over the year, following the receipt of £11.2 million in approval milestones from Bayer and £700,000 from the exercise of share options by members of staff.   

Commenting on the results, Geoffrey Guy, GW’s Chairman, said it had been "a landmark yea" for the firm. "We have reported a strong rise in revenues and profits, gained our first major approvals in Europe for Sativex, and advanced this innovative medicine into late stage development for the US market". 

In addition, the company has managed to enhance its longer term prospects through the extension of its research collaboration with Otsuka and the generation of "exciting data" in its earlier stage pipeline. "With an approved lead product, exciting cannabinoid pipeline, strong partnerships, and a healthy financial position, we believe we are well positioned for growth and are excited about the company’s prospects for the future," Guy added.

A key avenue for potential future success is the firm's development programme for its cannabis-based drug Sativex - currently approved in the UK, Spain, Canada and New Zealand for the treatment of MS spasticity - as a therapy for cancer pain.

Phase III Sativex trials

GW announced this week the start of Phase III clinical trials of Sativex - funded by US licensing partner Otsuka Pharmaceutical - as a treatment of pain in patients with advanced cancer who experience inadequate pain relief during optimised chronic opioid therapy, marking the initial target indication for the drug in the US.

The programme includes two randomised, placebo-controlled, multi-centre, multinational trials as well as a long term extension study, with each Phase III study s the drug's safety and efficacy over five weeks in around 370 patients.