The UK's GW Pharmaceuticals has snapped up Novartis as the latest marketing partner for its cannabinoid-based medicine Sativex to reduce severe spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis.

Under the terms of the deal, the Swiss major will commercialise and help make regulatory filings for Sativex (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol) in Australia and New Zealand, Asia (excluding Japan, China and Hong Kong), the Middle East (excluding Israel/Palestine) and Africa. Cashwise, GW will pocket an upfront fee of $5 million and be eligible for additional payments of almost $29 million upon the achievement of certain approval and commercial milestones, plus royalties.

Justin Gover, GW’s managing director said that "with a strategic focus in both MS and oncology, Novartis represents an excellent commercial partner for Sativex in these important and growing international markets". The drug is also in in Phase III trials for the treatment of cancer pain, which is being performed in conjunction with GW’s US licensing partner, Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co.

Sativex is licensed to Almirall in mainland Europe, to Bayer in the UK and Canada, and to Neopharm Group in Israel/Palestine. It has been approved in the UK, Spain, Canada and New Zealand a further six European countries (Germany, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and the Czech Republic) have recently recommended approval.