It's Novartis' prerogative to change its mind

Today's big Novartis news: The Swiss drugmaker has scooped up U.S. and Canadian rights to Vanda Pharmaceuticals' new schizophrenia remedy Fanapt for up to $465 million in up-front and milestone payments, plus royalties. It gets the right to develop an injectable form of the oral drug. And it has an option to to negotiate for co-marketing rights outside those countries.

But the really interesting angle to this story is this: It's the second time Novartis has made a deal for this drug. As In Vivo recounts, Hoechst licensed the drug in 1997 to Titan Pharmaceuticals, which in turn licensed it to Novartis. The development partners then dropped the drug in 2004 after running into Phase III troubles. Vanda carried the baton from there, getting approval--finally--in May. And now Novartis has decided it wants Fanapt after all.

Now, Novartis will gear up for a launch next year. And considering the enormous market for atypical antipsychotics in the U.S., it could either make a killing--or find itself faced with so much competition, generic and otherwise, that it can only get a small chunk of the business. "With the launch of Fanapt in early 2010," Novartis' North America Pharma chief Ludwig Hantson said in a statement, "we will broaden our presence in psychiatry and build on the heritage of Novartis in offering innovative treatments for devastating psychiatric diseases." We'll keep you posted on how it goes.

- here's the press release
- see the In Vivo post
- get more from Reuters