Spanish drugmaker Faes Farma says that it is close to signing an agreement with an unnamed “multinational pharmaceutical company” to market its potential blockbuster oral anti-allergy drug bilastine in Europe.

The Bilbao-headquartered firm said that the pact includes 40 European countries, with the exception of Spain and Portugal where it will market the drug itself, and Faes will receive milestones and royalty payments in each country covered under the agreement. The company added that it is reserving the right to grant secondary co-marketing licences for bilastine to other drugmakers in the larger European countries such as France, Germany, Italy and the UK.

A Faes spokeswoman refused to be drawn on the identity of the partner in question but told PharmaTimes World News that the deal should be signed and sealed before the end of the second quarter. She added that negotiations are taking place with another partner regarding a licensing deal for bilastine, which some analysts believe will be a billion-dollar drug, in Japan and other agreements are expected to follow soon for the rest of Asia and Latin America.

Bilastine is a selective antihistamine receptor antagonist which has successfully completed Phase III trials for the prevention of allergic rhinitis and is expected to be launched in Europe in 2008. As for North America, Faes signed a licensing deal with the USA’s Inspire Pharmaceuticals last October potentially worth $89 million to develop and market bilastine in North America. The Spanish firm will also receive a royalty of 14%-16% on net sales of the oral formulations of bilastine in the USA and Canada, if approved by regulatory authorities. By Kevin Grogan