NPS Pharma Buys Back Worldwide Rights To Short Bowel Syndrome Drug

BEDMINSTER, NJ ( TheStreet) -- NPS Pharmaceuticals ( NPSP) has reacquired worldwide marketing rights to two approved drugs, most notably its short bowel syndrome therapy Revestive, from Takeda.

Under terms of the re-worked deal, Takeda will receive $50 million in NPS Pharma stock in exchange for relinquishing ex-North America commercial rights to Revestive and Preotact, a thyroid hormone replacement therapy. NPS partnered with Nycomed for Preotact in 2004 and Revestive in 2007, and then Takeda acquired Nycomed in 2011.

The drugs were sold back to NPS Pharma because they are no longer "strategic" to the company, according to spokesman Tobias Cottman.

European regulators approved Revestive last August but Takeda had not yet launched the drug. That responsibility will now fall to NPS Pharma, which needs to build out a commercial operation in Europe while also remaining focused on selling the drug in the U.S., where it's known as Gattex.

NPS Pharma has brought on a former Genzyme sales executive as a consultant to help in Europe. Revestive pricing, reimbursement and a specific launch timetable for individual European countries have not been decided, said CEO Francois Nader.

Nader says he approached Takeda about re-acquiring rights to Revestive and Preotact because he wants NPS Pharma to have worldwide commercial rights to its orphan drug products, similar to Alexion Pharmaceuticals ( ALXN), Biomarin Pharmaceuticals ( BMRN) and Genzyme unit of Sanofi ( SNY).

But before NPS Pharma can join those peers, the company will need to prove that it can sell Gattex/Revestive worldwide. That Takeda agreed to relinquish two drugs for little more than $50 million in stock will inevitably raise some doubts.

Investors have already been in "show me" mode when it comes to NPS Pharma. At $9 per share, NPS Pharma's stock price hasn't budged since FDA approved Gattex in January and the company decided to price a single year of therapy at almost $300,000. NPS Pharma justifies ultra-orphan pricing for Gattex because there are only a few thousand patients in the U.S. who suffer from short bowel syndrome -- a debilitating condition that makes patient dependent on intravenous parenteral nutrition. Critics say Gattex may be hard-pressed to justify its high cost because for most patients, the drug only reduces the need for IV feeding but doesn't eliminate it entirely.

Gattex was launched in the U.S. five weeks ago. Nader says short bowel syndrome patients are now receiving drug (he won't say how many patients, exactly) and reimbursement hasn't been a problem so far. Insurance companies are requiring pre-authorization but that was expected, he adds. NPS Pharma is providing financial assistance to patients who cannot afford their insurance co-pay.

-- Reported by Adam Feuerstein in Boston. 

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