Spain's Almirall has reported solid turnover growth for 2005, up 12% to 751 million euros ($956m), helped by an expansion of its international presence.

30% of Almirall’s total turnover came from outside Spain, and this is predicted to climb to nearly 35% in 2006, when the company is forecasting sales of 799 million euros. The company holds a 6% share of the Spanish drug market.

Central to this international expansion plan are a series of collaborations signed during 2005, including agreements with Sareum Holdings, Evotec, Altana and GW Pharmaceuticals, amongst others. The latter was particularly significant as it gave Almirall commercialisation rights to Sativex, a cannabis-based drug for the treatment of neuropathic pain in multiple sclerosis and other serious pathologies.

Sativex is currently in Phase III development in Europe, and Almirall has secured distribution rights in all member countries of the European Union , except the UK, in return for an upfront payment to GW of £12 million ($22m).

Meanwhile, more recently, Almirall has signed a deal with the US drugmaker Forest Laboratories to develop LAS34273, a new Almirall R&D compound for the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is set to enter Phase III clinical trials this year.

Forest will be responsible for its commercialisation in the USA, although Almirall holds onto a future co-promotion option, while retaining rights in the rest of the world. Under the terms of this accord, Almirall received an upfront payment of $60 million and will also get milestones and royalties.

Spending on R&D at Almirall reached 109 million euros last year, or almost 15% of its turnover, and this will increase to 178 million euros in 2006. The company says it has recently completed a new, state-of-the-art R&D center in San Feliu de Llobregat, near its Barcelona headquarters, which involved an investment of 120 million euros and is said to be the largest investment in R&D in the Spanish pharmaceutical sector.