Shire Pharmaceuticals says that it has signed a non-binding initial agreement to globally develop and commercialise a new ADHD compound from New River Pharmaceuticals. The market welcomed the deal and the news that the product in question is expected to reach the US market by 2006, and sent the UK company’s share price up during afternoon trading in London yesterday.

The compound in question, known as NRP104, is in Phase III clinical development in the USA and is thought to offer advantages over currently available products because it is inactive until metabolised in the gastrointestinal tract, which could reduce the risk of potential abuse or overdose. The firm claims that the drug could have an improved safety profile over traditional stimulants, which could give it a boost in a competitive marketplace and could also hope offset the prospect of sliding sales of its top-selling ADHD treatment, Adderall XR (amphetamine salts extended-release), when copycat versions hit the market as early as next year.

The financial details of the agreement remain undisclosed as negotiations continue. Shire has the exclusive right to negotiate a transaction with New River until January 31, 2005. Shire’s chief executive, Matthew Emmens, welcomed the deal, saying: “When a definitive agreement is reached, access to this unique compound will support our vision of maintaining a leadership position in the treatment of ADHD in the years ahead.”