Acorda grabs liquid and patch pain treatments for $8M-plus

Acorda Therapeutics ($ACOR) is paying at least $8 million for two neuropathic pain drugs from NeurogesX ($NGSX). The deal adds patch and topical liquid treatments to the company's offerings.

Ron Cohen, Acorda's president and CEO, said in a statement that the two new compounds will help the company expand into neuropathic pain management. Until now, its primary focus has been on drugs to treat multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury and other neurological conditions. The patch treatment--Qutenza--will be off and running almost from the beginning. It already has FDA approval, and Cohen says the company's existing 100-person neurology sales force will market it in the U.S.

Qutenza has had FDA backing since 2010 as a treatment for post-shingles nerve pain. It generated $2.6 million in sales during 2010 and $2.4 million through the 2012 third quarter, before NeurogesX stopped actively promoting it. Selling the drug to Acorda makes life easier for NeurogesX, which has slashed staff and shifted its RND focus since failing to get approval for expanded use of Qutenza to treat HIV-related neuropathy in 2012. The patch carries an 8%, prescription-strength formulation of capsaicin, and is applied directly to the skin. It is non-narcotic and promoted as the only pharmaceutical-grade, prescription-strength capsaicin formulation on the market.

Qutenza, however, carries some baggage along with its sale. Astellas is testing the drug in a number of programs, including a Phase III trial to treat diabetic neuropathy-related pain. The sales agreement gives Acorda a right to review trial data, and to ally with Astellas on future trials, according to the deal announcement. Acorda has sales rights for both drugs in the U.S., Canada, Latin America and other territories. But Astellas can sell Qutenza in the European Union, some Eastern European countries, the Middle East and Africa. Acorda acknowledges that Astellas can develop the second drug, dubbed NP-1988, in those same regions.

NP-1998, previously called NGX-1998, is a second-generation version of Qutenza, with 20% prescription strength capsaicin. NeurogesX announced more job cuts earlier this year in order to focus its clinical development on advancing the drug into Phase III trials as a topical liquid treatment for diabetic neuropathy-related pain. Cohen said his company will work to advance the drug, whose purchase "adds another potentially important, late stage product to our pipeline."

Acorda will pay up to $5 million more assuming it meets regulatory and sales milestones relating to NP-1998.

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