Valeant signs with US WorldMeds to hawk first-ever opioid withdrawal drug Lucemyra

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Salix's primary care experience is one factor that attracted Lucemyra maker US WorldMeds to a partnership with owner Valeant, US WorldMeds' CEO said. (Valeant)

Last month, US WorldMeds won a historic FDA approval for opioid withdrawal drug Lucemyra, but it needed a marketing partner to help roll it out. Valeant’s Salix has taken the job.

Valeant said Thursday it had inked an exclusive deal to co-promote the new drug when it launches in the U.S., an event it expects in August. US WorldMeds CEO P. Breckinridge Jones said in a statement that the company sees Salix’s “strong commercial presence in primary care and pain management” as signs the Valeant subsidiary can “provide greater momentum and broader reach for the launch and uptake of Lucemyra.”

Salix has had an up-and-down relationship with primary care since Valeant picked it up back in 2015. Shortly after announcing the deal, then-CEO J. Michael Pearson vowed to hang onto Salix’s specialty force but left open the possibility that its primary care reps—who numbered 150 at the time—would lose their jobs as part of a cost-squeezing effort.

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It wasn’t long, though, before the company turned back to primary care for growth. In late 2016, after a potential $10 billion deal to sell struggling Salix to Takeda fell through, Valeant said it would add reps to focus specifically on would-be primary care prescribers of IBS-D product Xifaxan and oral opioid-induced constipation therapy Relistor.

Now, it’s that Relistor experience that Valeant says will set it up for success with Lucemyra. "We have developed a national sales footprint in pain management with Relistor, a treatment for opioid-induced constipation, and with the addition of Lucemyra, we can now offer a second solution in our portfolio to address the complexities of treatment with opioid-based pain medications,” Salix SVP and general manager Mark McKenna said in a statement.

RELATED: FDA chief: First-ever withdrawal drug could vault more patients into addiction therapy

After more than two decades of use in the U.K., Lucemyra picked up its FDA go-ahead to fight opioid withdrawal symptoms—which can include anxiety, nausea, vomiting, insomnia and muscle aches—after topping placebo in a pair of trials. While the drug isn’t meant to treat opioid addiction or curb drug cravings, it can be used as part of a long-term plan for coming off the deadly painkillers and staying off them for the long-term, the FDA said.