Merck & Co has signed up Lundbeck to sell its recently-approved antipsychotic Sycrest in all markets outside the USA, China and Japan.

Sycrest (asenapine) was approved in the European Union last month for the treatment of adults with moderate-to-severe manic episodes associated with bipolar I disorder. The sublingual tablet is marketed in the USA by Merck as Saphris.

Financial terms have not been disclosed but Lundbeck will pay a fee as well as product supply payments in exchange for the Sycrest rights. The Danish firm, which will launch the drug in the European Union at the beginning of 2011, said the adult bipolar mania market in the continent "is still quite undertreated" and asenapine "represents another treatment option for appropriate patients".

Beverly Lybrand, general manager of neuroscience and ophthalmology at Merck, said Lundbeck has "extensive experience in psychiatry and is the ideal partner", while the latter's chief executive Ulf Wiinberg noted that the agreement "highlights our strategic focus on late-stage specialty central nervous system products". He added that Lundbeck sees "great opportunities to leverage our highly dedicated sales infrastructure".