Medicis Pharmaceutical Corp. said Wednesday that it hasobtained from Pharmaceutical Quality Associates an exclusiveworldwide license to diphencyprone, a drug to treat asuspected autoimmune disorder known as alopecia areata.Terms weren't disclosed.

Alopecia areata, which affects about 2.6 million Americans,results in partial hair loss. Current treatment involves injectionof steroids directly into the scalp and skin.

Diphencyprone has been tested on more than 750 patients inpilot studies in Europe and Canada, said John Holaday, directorof R&D at Medicis (NASDAQ:MDRXA). Based on those studies,Medicis estimates that 85 percent of patients with alopeciaareata respond to the drug. The response rate is about 50percent for patients with alopecia totalis, or greater than 90percent hair loss.

Researchers postulate that histocompatibility factors aren'texpressed in the cells lining the hair follicles of people withalopecia, said Holaday. The process of activating the immunesystem with diphencyprone, which is a contact allergen, maycause these factors to be expressed more normally, allowingthe follicle to make hair.

The New York company hopes to start U.S. Phase II studies thisyear. Its shares closed unchanged Wednesday at $3.63. -- KB

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