Vivus has signed up Italy's Menarini to sell its recently-approved erectile dysfunction drug Spedra in over 40 European countries, plus Australia and New Zealand.
Spedra (avanafil), a phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitor, was approved by the European Commission last month. Menarini, a private company headquartered in Florence, expects to field a sales force of 1,350 representatives to promote the drug.
Under the terms of the agreement, in the first year, Vivus expects to receive 39 million euros including upfront payments of 16 million euros and receive reimbursement to cover various obligations to partner Mitsubishi-Tanabe. The US firm is eligible to receive up to 79 million euros in milestones and other payments.
Timothy Morris, Vivus chief financial officer, said that Menarini will be an excellent partner as it has "tremendous know-how and marketing capabilities throughout Europe". It has already established a presence in men's health with the acquisition from Johnson & Johnson last year of Priligy (dapoxetine), an oral treatment of premature ejaculation.
Mr Morris added that "the licensing process was competitive and Menarini was chosen for their extensive presence in their territories and their history of successful drug launches across Europe". The latter's vice chairman, Alberto Giovanni Aleotti, said that "the rapid onset of action and unique profile make Spedra an important treatment option for men with ED", adding that launches will occur in the major EU countries early next year.
Getting a partner for Spedra in Europe will take the heat off Vivus management for a little while as it prepares to fend off pressure from its major shareholder, First Manhattan Co, for control of the firm. The latter has been disparaging about the disappointing launch of the obesity drug Qsymia (phentermine/topiramate) and is looking to get its slate of directors elected to the board at the annual general meeting next week.
Spedra won US approval more than a year ago but has not yet been launched as Vivus is still seeking a partner to help it market and sell the drug.