* Pretax profit 4.6 mln pounds vs 1.2 mln year earlier
* Phase III trial of Sativex initiated in cancer pain
* Shares rise 10 percent
(Adds managing director interview, latest shares)
By Brenda Goh
LONDON, Nov 23 (Reuters) - GW Pharmaceuticals’ GWP.L profits rose sharply following the successful launch of its cannabis-derived drug Sativex in Britain, and it said it had started final-stage trials of the medicine to treat cancer pain.
The British firm grows cannabis in secret locations around the English countryside to produce Sativex, an under-the-tongue spray that was launched earlier this year in Britain to treat spasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS).
The drug is also on track to be launched for MS in Spain in early 2011, with other European markets following, but prescribing Sativex to cancer patients is likely to be a bigger market.
“In terms of target cancer patient population, the cancer pain opportunity is a larger opportunity than multiple sclerosis,” GW’s Managing Director Justin Gover told Reuters.
“There are around 35 percent of people with advanced cancer that have pain which is not adequately controlled with their opiate treatment ... and we aim to treat those patients.”
The goal of treating cancer pain is also important for GW because, if successful, it will mark the entry-point for Sativex into the all-important U.S. market. Pretax profit in the year to Sept. 30 increased to 4.6 million pounds ($7.37 million) from 1.2 million pounds a year ago, as sales of Sativex jumped by 64 percent to 2.8 million pounds from 1.7 million pounds.
Paul Cuddon, an analyst at KBC Peel Hunt, said GW had enjoyed an “excellent” year and raised his target price for the stock to 160 pence from 145p, reiterating his “buy” recommendation.
The shares had risen 10 percent to 110p by 0945 GMT on Tuesday.
Turnover in the year increased 27 percent to 30.7 million pounds, boosted by milestone payments from partners, with Sativex approval in Britain bringing in 10 million pounds in payment from GW’s partner Bayer (BAYGn.DE).
GW is working on the final-stage Phase III clinical trials of Sativex for cancer pain with Otsuka Pharmaceutical, its licensing partner in the United States. (Editing by Ben Hirschler and Will Waterman) ($1=.6244 Pound)