Finnish pharmaceutical group Orion Corp has posted a 26.7% increase in operating profit for full-year 2006 to 196.7 million euros, while sales climbed 9.5% to 641.1 million euros.

Once again sales were driven by its Parkinson’s disease drug Stalevo (carbidopa, levodopa and entacapone) - sold with partner Novartis – which increased 49.1% to 111.3 million euros. Its second-best seller, also for Parkinson’s, was Comtess/Comtan (entacapone) which brought in 74.7 million euros, up 5.8% on the previous year.

More disappointing was the performance of Simdax (levosimendan) for heart failure brought in 13.2 million euros, down 4.2%. Despite being available in over 40 countries (though not yet in key European markets such as the UK, France and Germany), the US Food and Drug Administration has yet to give the treatment the green light and a study at the end of 2005, which found a trend towards a higher risk of death in heart failure patients treated with Simdax, despite a clear benefit on symptoms, did not help.

Orion prepared to pay for further Simdax trial

Orion now says that, after talks with partner Abbott Laboratories, it may contribute 20 million euros to the cost of an additional Phase III study with intravenously administered levosimendan, and that it could carry about 20 million euros ($25.9 million) of the costs. A consultation with the FDA over a possible new study of Simdax, which Orion stresses is still not a certainty, are scheduled to start in March.

As for its pipeline, Orion said that an ongoing Phase III trial (STRIDE-PD) of Stalevo is looking at whether the drug can delay the onset of symptoms in Parkinson's disease patients and results are expected in 2008. A Phase III study looking at Precedex (dexmedetomidine) as a long-term infusion for the sedation of patients in intensive care is also underway.