Speedel has had a major falling-out with its fellow Swiss, but much bigger, partner Novartis over monies that the former believes it is owed relating to the new antihypertensive Tekturna/Rasilez.

The row emerged as Speedel reported a 15.5% reduction in its third-quarter net loss to 13.6 million Swiss francs, or just over $12 million. Its revenues came in at just 300,000 francs but the Basel-based biotech said it estimates that royalties from Tekturna (aliskiren) were just over 1.3 million francs for the nine months ended September 30. However it has only received 769,000 francs from Novartis and third-quarter payments have not been made.

This is not the biggest problem, however, as Speedel is disputing another set of royalties that are not based on sales of the new drug but relate to part of the firms’ licensing agreement whereby Speedel would get additional payments if Tekturna could be made at a specified cost, thanks to a method developed by the smaller company. However Novartis has said that Speedel is not entitled to any revenues from this ‘cost-of-goods’ component for the first two quarters of this year and the latter firm says its partner has failed to provide it with “the relevant information necessary to validate” the claim.

Furthermore, Speedel claims that Novartis has denied it the right “to audit the underlying information with respect to the cost-of-goods component of the licence agreement”. Chief executive Alice Huxley said that her firm’s ”accomplishment in devising a new chemical synthesis route” for producing Tekturna, which she refers to by its old name of SPP100, “was fundamental and has enabled Novartis to successfully develop the first new hypertension therapy for over a decade”.

She added that “we trust that this disagreement can be amicably resolved as soon as possible" but a speedy solution does not seem likely. John Gilardi, a spokesman for the drugs giant, said that “under our contract, Speedel is entitled to royalties on net sales and compensation for reduced manufacturing costs in certain circumstances." However, he added, "Novartis believes it has fully complied with its reporting duties and will continue to work constructively with Speedel."

Speedel could do with the money, having noted that its cash burn for this year will be around 75 million euros. The firm added that it has funds to continue its programmes through 2009.