UCB has launched its drug to treat loss of postural tone in narcolepsy patients, Xyrem (sodium oxybate) oral solution, in Germany, its first major European market.

Xyrem is the first drug approved to treat this loss of muscle tone – called cataplexy - associated with the serious sleep disorder narcolepsy in most EU countries. A roll-out of the product across the remainder of Europe will take place during the course of 2006, said UCB in a statement.

UCB licenses Xyrem from US company Orphan Medical – now owned by Jazz Pharmaceuticals – which has been selling the product in the USA since 2002. Orphan said earlier this year it expected to Xyrem to double its sales to a level of $20 million dollars in 2005, with further strong growth expected thereafter.

Narcolepsy is a debilitating, life-long neurological disorder that is characterised by excessive daytime sleepiness and sleep attacks. Cataplexy is a typical symptom of narcolepsy, in which there is a sudden loss of control over voluntary muscles, triggered by emotions such as amusement, anger, arousal or fear, causing the patient to collapse.