Schering-Plough has been boosted by the news that a US regulatory panel has backed the firm’s new anaesthesia drug sugammadex.

The US Food and Drug Administration’s Advisory Committee on Anaesthetics and Life Support has unanimously recommended sugammadex, which is designed to reverse the effects of certain muscle relaxants used in general anaesthesia during surgery. S-P noted that if the FDA gives the green light to the treatment (most likely after the panel’s vote), sugammadex will be the first and only selective relaxant binding agent which will “rapidly and predictably reverse any depth of muscle relaxation induced by rocuronium and vecuronium within minutes”.

Robert Spiegel, chief medical officer at the Schering-Plough Research Institute, claimed that sugammadex, which the firm got hold of through its recent acquisition of Organon BioSciences from Akzo Nobel, “has the potential to transform the practice of anaesthesia through improved management of muscle relaxation in the millions of surgeries where these agents are used”.

The FDA panel had raised concerns about adverse events associated with the treatment, including allergic reactions, but stated that these issues could be addressed in post-marketing studies. S-P added that it will continue testing sugammadex and would monitor reports of any adverse events associated with its use.

Pricing will be an issue as to the take-up of the drug when approved and Credit Suisse analyst Catherine Arnold issued a research note saying that if S-P charges around $15-$20 per dose, sugammadex revenues could top $500 million worldwide by 2012.