UCB and co-promotion partner Schwarz Pharma said yesterday they have launched Neupro (rotigotine), their once-daily transdermal patch to treat early Parkinson’s disease, in the USA.

The two firms’ dedicated sales teams will immediately begin promoting the patch to US physicians, while the companies will also kick off a public awareness campaign designed to raise the profile of Parkinson’s disease and highlight the latest treatment options.

Neupro, which is the first patch ever approved to treat Parkinson’s, was cleared in the USA in May on the back of trial data from clinical studies involving more than 1,500 patients with early-stage disease showing the patch was effective and well-tolerated over a 24-hour period.

Filing in advanced Parkinson's by year-end

Neupro is a non-ergolinic dopamine receptor-agonist designed to mimic the action of dopamine, a naturally-produced neurotransmitter crucial for proper motor functioning. The product is also approved in Europe for treating patients with both early and advanced Parkinson's disease in combination with levodopa and is available in 14 countries, including Germany, the UK, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, Greece, Spain, Finland, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Schwarz has previously said that it will seek US approval for Neupro in advanced Parkinson’s by the end of the year and is also evaluating the product in restless legs syndrome.

Currently one million people in the USA alone suffer from Parkinson’s disease. But hot on Schwarz’ heels is a once-daily extended release version of GlaxoSmithKline’s rival product Requip (ropinirole), and analysts from UBS have previously said they do not expect it will not be as successful as the Requip franchise plus its once-daily follow on. However, Schwarz Pharma itself has said that sales of the drug could reach as much as 350 million euros annually, but that this figure could be boosted by an additional 300 million euros per year if it is also successful in developing the compound for RLS.

- Meanwhile, UCB says it has appointed Detlef Thielgen as chief financial officer, with effect from 1 September, succeeding Luc Missorten who will continue as CFO until that date and then leave to pursue new opportunities. Thielgen is currently chief executive of UCB's Schwarz Pharma unit, where he has also served as CFO since 2002. UCB currently owns 87.6% of Schwarz Pharma and on July 13 said it is looking to acquire the remaining shares in the company.