Schering-Plough has licensed worldwide rights to a new oral hepatitis B
drug being developed by Valeant Pharmaceuticals and Metabasis
Pradefovir, an investigational oral antiviral compound currently in Phase
II trials for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B, was licensed by
Valeant from Metabasis in 2000. Under the terms of the deal, S-P will make
an upfront payment of $19.2 million to Valeant and $1.8 million to
Metabasis and will pay up to an additional $90 million depending on
certain development and regulatory milestones to Valeant and Metabasis
($65 million of which will go the former firm). S-P will also pay royalties
in the event pradefovir hits the market.
Paul Laikind, Metabasis’ chief executive, was extremely enthusiastic about
the prospects for the compound, saying that “based on the clinical results
to date, we believe pradefovir’s profile could make it best-in-class
should it be approved." S-P was a little more considered, saying that the
compound “has the potential to offer improved treatment options for
patients with chronic hepatitis B,” which affects some 400 million people
The deal is a real boost for Valeant, which recently announced that its
hepatitis C drug Viramidine (taribavirin) was no better than a standard
therapy in a second Phase III trial.
S-P is already an established player in the treatment of hepatitis.
Peg-Intron (peginterferon alfa) for hepatitis C had third-quarter sales of
$206 million, up 11%, while Rebetol (ribavirin) still makes a useful
contribution to the firm’s coffers, despite suffering from generic
competition. S-P also has an hepatitis protease inhibitor in Phase II
development which it says could eventually become a billion-dollar drug.
* S-P also benefited from the news that Moody’s Investors Service has
upped its outlook for the firm to ‘positive’ from ‘stable,’ due to growth
in several products, improved cash flow and improvements in the company’s litigation profile.