West Coast Editor

Bolstering its franchise in hypertension, Biovail Corp. paid about $94 million to Solvay Pharmaceuticals Inc. for the U.S. marketing rights to Teveten and Teveten HCT (the same drug combined with the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide).

Toronto-based Biovail estimated sales of the two angiotensin-II receptor blockers (ARBs) will reach about $25 million this year.

Teveten (eprosartan mesylate), available in 20 countries, “got launched in October 1999, and it was not launched in a top-priority position,” said Kenneth Howling, vice president of finance for Biovail, noting that Solvay’s resources were committed to the launch in May 1999 of a hypertension product it had acquired Aceon, once-daily angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor therapy in tablet form.

“All detailing efforts were taken off [Teveten] in March 2001 in the U.S., and despite all this, it still did about $10 million in sales last year,” he added. Biovail’s launch of Teveten HCT, approved in November 2001, is expected to be around midyear.

The diuretic option “basically gives doctors flexibility,” Howling said. “Mild hypertensive patients are just fine with just the ARB.” Other products that combine the blocker with a diuretic are on the market, he added.

“ARBs grew 38 percent last year, so not everybody is taking the combo product,” Howling told BioWorld Today, noting that the market for ARBs with diuretics grew more than 50 percent in 2001.

Under the terms of the Teveten deal, Marietta, Ga.-based Solvay will keep manufacturing and supplying both drugs, with an option to transfer U.S. manufacturing to Biovail, and Solvay will keep all rights outside the U.S. The two firms will form a committee to discuss future development options, and Solvay has an option to acquire any modifications of the products for markets outside the U.S.

“We haven’t given any visibility on line-extension ideas for the brand,” Howling said. “Clearly, they’re interested in line extensions, as are we.”

After disclosing the deal, Biovail reiterated its February forecast of 30 percent to 35 percent growth in earnings per share in 2002.

Biovail already markets the antihypertensive calcium blocker Cardizem (diltiazem), for which it paid Aventis SA, of Frankfurt, Germany, $409.5 million last year, and has an enhanced version ready to launch this fall.

“We intend to call it Cardizem XL,” Howling said. “It’s designed to deliver medication at a specific time of the day.” Taken at night, the formulation has a graded-release profile built in. Most adverse cardiac events occur in the early morning hours.

Another form of diltiazem is being developed with DOV Pharmaceutical Inc., of Hackensack, N.J., which filed for an $86 million initial public offering earlier this year. DOV is preparing its version of diltiazem for Phase III trials. (See BioWorld Today, Jan. 30, 2002.)

The family of Cardizem products, which garnered more than $160 million in sales for Biovail last year, carried a bigger price tag than Teveten when acquired, but Biovail is paying a higher price-to-sales multiple for Teveten, Howling acknowledged. At the same time, Cardizem is genericized unlike Teveten, revenues from which are expected to keep climbing.

“We bought a declining revenue stream [with Cardizem, which Biovail bought mainly to launch the XL version], and here it’s the opposite,” he said. “The ARBs drug class has been characterized with growth in excess of 35 percent, and Teveten is on patent until 2011.”

Biovail’s stock (NYSE: BVF) closed Monday at $51.60, up $2.40.