Shares in NicOx are on the rise after the French biotechnology firm presented a pooled analysis of late-stage data which shows that its investigational osteoarthritis treatment naproxcinod significantly reduces blood pressure among patients compared to the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug naproxen.

The Sophia Antipolis-based group unveiled the 13-week analysis of 2,734 patients involved in Phase III which demonstrated that both 500 mg and 750 mg doses of naproxcinod showed a significant reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared to naproxen. The data also showed that both doses showed a similar blood pressure profile to placebo, in contrast to naproxen which raised blood pressure.

The NicOx drug is the first in a new class of anti-inflammatory drugs known as CINODs (COX-inhibiting nitric oxide-donators). The company said that “there is a clear unmet medical need for a novel anti-inflammatory agent with no detrimental impact on blood pressure”. COX-2 inhibitors and traditional NSAIDs are widely used for the treatment of OA, “but can lead to the onset of new episodes of high blood pressure or worsening of pre- existing hypertension”, NicOx added.

Chief executive Michele Garufi said that "these compelling blood pressure data confirm the unique profile of naproxcinod” and complete the Phase III programme for the New Drug Application submission. “We are confident that naproxcinod will become an important treatment option for OA and we look forward to 2009, when NicOx will enter a new and exciting phase," he added.

The data would appear to strengthen NiCox’ hand as it looks to find a marketing partner for naproxcinod which analysts believe could be a blockbuster.