Switzerland’s Ferring Pharmaceuticals is celebrating the European launch of Firmagon, which the company and specialists believe represents a major advance in the treatment of prostate cancer.

The privately-owned Saint Prex-headquartered company presented details about Firmagon (degarelix) at the European Association of Urology Congress in Stockholm, Sweden. The drug is a new an injectable gonadotrophin-releasing hormone receptor blocker indicated for the treatment of patients with advanced hormone-dependent prostate cancer.

Firmagon has a novel mechanism of action that is different from commonly used hormonal therapies, Ferring says. It is administered as a subcutaneous injection and rapidly reduces levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA) by immediately blocking the GnRH receptors in the pituitary gland. This suppresses the luteinising hormone, which decreases production of testosterone, on which prostate cancer is dependant on for its growth, in the testicles.

The drug, which got the thunmbs-up from US regulators at the end of last year, was approved by the European Commission last month based on Phase III studies where Firmagon produced a reduction in levels of testosterone below 0.5ng/ml within three days in more than 96% of study patients. This is close to the immediate effect achieved with surgical castration and was sustained over the whole 12-month study period. The data also shows that degarelix suppresses testosterone and PSA faster than leuprolide, the widely-used luteinising hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) agonist.

Speaking in Stockholm, John Anderson, consultant urological surgeon at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, noted that unlike LHRH agonists, degarelix does not induce an initial testosterone surge. He added that Firmagon “is an important new step for the treatment of advanced, hormone-dependent prostate cancer” and “I have no doubt it will make a difference…offering a new option and hope for many patients".

The starting dose of Firmagon is 240 mg, followed by monthly maintenance doses of 80 mg. A Ferring spokesman told PharmaTimes World News that the average monthly cost of one year of degarelix treatment is comparable to other hormone therapies for prostate cancer. By Kevin Grogan in Stockholm