Belgium’s UCB has signed up Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co to market its two leading drugs, the epilepsy blockbuster Keppra and Crohn's disease treatment Cimzia in Japan.

Under the terms of the agreement, UCB will receive up to 113 million euros in upfront and milestone payments as well as funding for the clinical development in Japan of Keppra (levetiracetam) for the adjunctive treatment of partial onset seizures and the anti-TNF alpha drug Cimzia (certolizumab pegol). Files for the two drugs are expected to be submitted to the Japanese Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency by early 2009.

UCB and Otsuka say that they will also co-develop Keppra and Cimzia in other indications. They will also join forces in co-promoting the Japanese firm’s anti-platelet agent Pletaal (cilostazol) “to selected accounts for a limited period”.

The latter is a treatment for stage II peripheral arterial occlusive disease or intermittent claudication. PAOD is characterised by cramp-like pains in the legs which occur due to circulatory problems after walking and disappear again after a period of rest. If the disease is not treated, it can lead to amputation.

UCB chief executive Roch Doliveux described his new partner as having “an excellent reputation in drug development, marketing and sales and an entrepreneurial culture,” while Tatsuo Higuchi, president of Otsuka, said that “we highly evaluate these compounds and UCB's experience in this area”.

The deal forms part of UCB’s life-cycle management of Keppra. Last week the US Food and Drug Administration granted paediatric exclusivity to the treatment Keppra, extended its patent by six months to January 2009.