Germany’s Schering AG and Switzerland’s Novartis say they will co-promote their new anti-cancer drug, PTK/ZK, in all oncology indications in Europe, North America and Japan in a deal that the firms say enables them to “maximise the compound’s full potential.”

An initial agreement gave Schering exclusive marketing rights in Europe, while Novartis held corresponding rights for North America. Under the new agreement, the companies will join forces in each of the major markets of the world. Schering will become the lead partner in Europe while Novartis will be the lead partner in North America, with each firm bearing the larger part of costs and resources in these specific markets, retaining a correspondingly larger percentage of the profits. For Japan, costs and profits will be shared equally by Schering and Novartis. The former will exclusively market the compound in Latin America, Africa and Australia, while Novartis retains the exclusive rights for Asia.

“By joining forces in each of the major markets of the world, Schering and Novartis will be able to rapidly and effectively reach the patients who will benefit most from PTK/ZK,” said Marc Rubin, member of Schering’s executive board, responsible for development and oncology. “PTK/ZK has the potential to significantly advance the clinical approach to colorectal cancer, and to provide a meaningful benefit to patients with this devastating disease. It should play an important role in the expansion of our global oncology business.” The company previously said it expected the drug would become a blockbuster offering, with annual sales in excess of one billion euros [[06/01/05d]].

PTK/ZK is an oral angiogenesis inhibitor, which is designed to target the tumour blood vessels and potentially lymphatic vessels, slowing tumour growth and spread. Its safety and efficacy is currently being evaluated in two clinical Phase III studies in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer – patient enrollment was completed last year and Schering expects first study results in the second quarter of 2005, and hoped to file the product for approval in the second half of the year.

- Meanwhile, Schering also said that it has transferred its interest in the ophthalmic use of PTK/ZK to Novartis in a separate agreement, because ophthalmic disease is not one of the company’s core business fields. As a result, the German firm says it will receive an undisclosed upfront fee, in addition to milestone payments and royalties.

Novartis is planning to develop and commercialise the compound as a treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration – a leading cause of blindness.