Pfizer buys rights to German firm's hypertension drug

Fighting an unremitting wave of patent expirations over the next few years, Pfizer Inc. announced Wednesday it is acquiring worldwide rights to the experimental hypertension pill terguride.

Pfizer said it was buying rights to terguride from German drug developer Ergonex Pharma. The company did not announce financial details of the agreement.

"Pfizer's unique business unit structure positions us to advance a broad portfolio of innovative research programs designed to lead to a diversity of products," said Geno Germano, president of the company's specialty care business unit, in a statement.

Pfizer will be facing several major patent expirations in the next few years, for drugs such as cholesterol treatment Lipitor and erectile dysfunction pill Viagra with more than $15 billion in sales last year.

In May 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted terguride orphan drug status for treatment of Pulmonary Alterial Hypertension. Orphan status, which also has been granted to terguride in the European Union, means a drug has to overcome fewer hurdles to regulatory approval than compounds that treat diseases in which other treatment options are available.

Pfizer said it will complete a mid-stage trial of terguride currently underway and will have worldwide rights to the drug, except in Japan, should commercialization of the product be realized. Ergonex will receive milestone payments as terguride continues on its way to commercialization, according to Pfizer, and would get royalities from any sales of the drug.

Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension is a progressive disease affecting between 100,000 and 200,000 people in the United States and Europe, according to company estimates.

Terguride already has approval in Japan for treatment of Hyperproactinemia, or the excessive production of prolactin, which stimulates the production of breast milk in women. Hyperprolactinaemia can cause spontaneous flows of milk and disruptions of menstrual cycles in women and infertility and erectile dysfunction in men.

Rudolf Reiter, chief executive of Ergonex, said the development of terguride is a "challenging and demanding endeavor" that he hopes will lead to a treatment for Pulmonary Alterial Hypertension. The condition, at its worst, can lead to heart failure.

"We are excited about this agreement with Pfizer as it ensures continuity of development (of terguride)," Reiter said in a statement.

l.howard@theday.com

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