UK drugmaker Shire has chosen a small US biotechnology company Samaritan Pharmaceuticals to sell Elaprase, its treatment for Hunter syndrome, in Greece and Cyprus.

Elaprase (idursulfase) was granted marketing authorisation for the long-term treatment of patients with Hunter syndrome, a disorder that causes mucopolysaccharide to build up and deposit in the tissues, by the European Commission in January, having been given the green light in the USA in July last year. It is the only approved enzyme replacement therapy for the disorder, which is characterised by growth problems, facial deformity and abnormal organ function. It can also cause mental retardation, and in severe cases patients do not tend to live beyond 20.

The treatment will be marketed and distributed by Samaritan on a named patient basis until the pricing and the reimbursement of Elaprase is established in Greece and Cyprus with the relevant regulatory authorities. A launch in those countries is expected by the beginning of the second quarter this year.

Janet Greeson, Samaritan’s chief executive, said the firm was delighted to acquire the rights to sell and distribute “this crucial drug” and making it available to children “in the normally overlooked territories of Greece and Cyprus." Samaritan’s European headquarters are in Athens.