Skyepharma has bought itself access Lucideon's abuse-deterrent drug delivery technology to use in the development of a new formulation of an undisclosed opioid.

The UK group has signed an exclusive feasibility, development and licence agreement with Lucideon for use of its iCRT proprietary oral drug delivery platform technology, which is designed to enable drug products to retain their controlled-release properties regardless of tampering methods such as chewing, crushing and heating.

Skyepharma said it initially intends to use the technology to develop an abuse deterrent formulation of a "major opioid" for the US market which, according to GBI Research, is set to grow from $11 billion in 2014 to $17.7 billion by 2021.

Under the deal, the firms will work together over the coming months to assess the feasibility of using the technology in this novel way. Skyepharma will fund this development work, in line with current R&D spend plans. Lucideon will provide specialist expertise with its technology, and Skyepharma's oral business will formulate the product and complete an abuse deterrence challenge study.

Lucideon stands to receive milestone payments as the development progresses as well as a single digit share of Skyepharma's royalty revenues from in-market sales of the product. Assuming a successful development, the investment by Skyepharma is expected to be around £4 million over four years, which is within Skyepharma's existing guidance for overall investment in research and development.

Peter Grant, Skyepharma's chief executive, said the agreement is "an exciting development" for the firm's oral business. "It combines leading and innovative technology from Lucideon with Skyepharma's proven oral pharmaceutical development capabilities to address a major need in a very large and growing market".

"The route to market is also highly innovative - the generic (ANDA) route to filing provides a relatively rapid potential for approval, whilst opening up further opportunities should regulators seek to require greater abuse deterrence in marketed opioids," he noted.