EU backs Nycomed's Daxas in deadly lung disease

Tue Jul 6, 2010 8:35am EDT

* First new treatment type for COPD in over a decade * Important step towards possible IPO, timeline not changed

ZURICH, July 6 (Reuters) - Nycomed's [NYCMD.UL] lung drug Daxas has won European Union backing to treat patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bringing to market the first new type of treatment for the disease in over a decade.

Daxas, a once-daily oral tablet, is expected to be launched soon in Britain and Germany, the privately owned Swiss drugmaker said on Tuesday, possibly helping it to carve out a niche in the multibillion-dollar worldwide COPD market.

Nycomed, which is aiming for an eventual IPO, struck a deal with Merck & Co (MRK.N) to help sell its key drug in Europe and Canada earlier this year, while Forest Laboratories FRX.N holds U.S. rights to the drug, also known as roflumilast. [ID:nLDE63P05Q]

The approval was widely expected after Daxas got a green light from European regulators in April recommending it for approval as a maintenance treatment for severe COPD, despite a rebuff in the United States. [ID:nLDE63M10W]

"This is an important step towards a possible IPO, but it does not change the timeline," said a spokeswoman for Nycomed.

Nycomed has said it could possibly list in the Swiss stock exchange in 2011 at the earliest, but has so far declined to give a concrete timeframe.

Daxas is also pivotal for Forest, which is trying to build its portfolio ahead of the 2012 patent expiration for its huge-selling antidepressant Lexapro.

Industry analysts have estimated peak annual sales could hit $500 million or more.

According to WHO estimates, 80 million people suffer from moderate to severe COPD worldwide and more than 3 million died from the disease in 2005.

Nycomed, which had sales of 3.2 billion euros ($4.29 billion) in 2009, is majority-owned by four private equity firms, led by Nordic Capital. The other are Credit Suisse's DLJ Merchant Banking, Coller International Partners and Avista. (Reporting by Katie Reid; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter) ($1 = 0.7453 euro)