Acorda Therapeutics said today it acquired rights to an approved drug and a drug candidate about to enter Phase III, in a deal that expands the company’s offerings to neuropathic pain management and could generate up to $12 million for seller NeurogesX.

Acorda agreed to pay NeurogesX about $8 million for development and commercialization rights in the United States, Canada, Latin America, and unspecified other territories for Qutenza (capsaicin) 8% Patch, an FDA-approved drug for neuropathic pain associated with postherpetic neuralgia (PHN); and NP-1998 (formerly NGX-1998), a Phase III-ready capsaicin topical solution for neuropathic pain. Of the payment, $7 million will go directly to NeurogesX, with another $900,000 set aside for assumed accounts payable.

In addition, Acorda will pay NeurogesX up to $5 million contingent upon undisclosed regulatory and sales milestones related to NP-1998.

“We plan to support Qutenza with our existing medical and commercial infrastructure,” including a specialty neurology sales force of about 100 sales professionals, plus the company’s medical and safety reporting infrastructure, Ron Cohen, M.D., Acorda’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “This adds another potentially important late-stage product to our pipeline.”

Qutenza—a dermal patch containing 8% capsaicin—is applied once every three months for post-shingles nerve pain. Approved by FDA in 2010, Qutenza generated net sales of $2.6 million in 2011. Net sales were approximately $2.4 million through the end of the third quarter of 2012, even though NeurogesX discontinued active promotion of the product in March of that year.

Qutenza is being evaluated in a Phase III trial for neuropathic pain conditions such as painful diabetic neuropathy. Acorda has rights to review data from that trial, being conducted by Astellas, and the two companies left the door open to collaborating and/or sharing the costs of future clinical trials.

Astellas holds exclusive commercialization rights for the drug in the 27 countries of the European Union, plus Iceland, Norway, and Liechtenstein, as well as Switzerland, parts of Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

Within those same territories, Astellas also has an option to develop NP-1998, a topical solution containing 20% capsaicin. NP-1998 has completed three Phase I trials and one Phase II trial in PHN patients. Last August, the company received End-of-Phase II guidance from FDA regarding previously announced plans for Phase III clinical development of the drug candidate. 

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