Daiichi shells out $200M-plus to help AstraZeneca launch Movantik

AstraZeneca ($AZN) has decided not to go it alone on marketing Movantik. Daiichi Sankyo has signed on to help launch the constipation pill--and it's paying a pretty penny for the opportunity.

The Japanese drugmaker is shelling out $200 million up front for co-marketing rights in the U.S., where Movantik won approval last September. Another $625 million in milestone payments could follow, depending on sales.

For its part, AstraZeneca will manufacture the drug, book sales and pay sales commissions to Daiichi along the way. Each company will run its own commercial operation and field its own sales reps.

Paul Hudson

The two companies plan to roll out the drug early next month. "We are delighted to collaborate with Daiichi Sankyo to expand our commercialization efforts in the U.S. in order to get this important medicine to the large number of patients suffering with opioid-induced constipation," AstraZeneca EVP Paul Hudson said in a statement.

Developed in partnership with Nektar Therapeutics ($NKTR), Movantik (naloxegol) has the distinction of being a first-in-class treatment for constipation triggered by opioid painkillers. That's a good thing, but it comes with its challenges. Global Data analysts say doctors and patients aren't savvy about opioid-induced constipation. Patients tend to use over-the-counter constipation remedies rather than seeking out a prescription solution--even though there's not much evidence that OTC pills work for this type of constipation.

And though Movantik is the first mu-opioid pill to hit the OIC market, it's not without its competitors. Salix Pharmaceuticals ($SLXP) markets an injectable mu-opioid, Relistor, which is looking for its own approval in OIC. Then there's Entereg from Cubist Pharmaceuticals, a hospital-only constipation remedy that also lacks the specific indication--and has some safety questions attached, too.

Of course, AstraZeneca has that Big Pharma marketing savvy. That tends to be a plus. But since Movantik won approval last September, both Salix and Cubist have sold themselves to larger drugmakers. Salix agreed earlier this month to an offer from Valeant Pharmaceuticals ($VRX), which is plowing new resources into SG&A to prove its marketing prowess. And Merck & Co. ($MRK) bought Cubist.

Now, though, AZ has a marketing partner with its own ambitions in the gastrointestinal field. "Movantik represents an opportunity to help patients manage one of the most common conditions arising from widely used pain medications," Daiichi's U.S. president, Ken Keller, said in a statement, "as well as an opportunity to continue to build the Daiichi Sankyo U.S. portfolio of medicines in this therapeutic area."

- see the release from AZ

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