Salix Pharmaceuticals has agreed to buy the rights for a drug that treats constipation in patients taking pain medicines.
The deal with Progenics Pharmaceuticals calls for Morrisville-based Salix to pay $60 million upfront, and payments worth up to $290 million more if the drug meets development and sales milestones in coming years.
Salix is one of the few small drug companies based in the Triangle with actual products and revenue. The company sells drugs to treat various gastrointestinal ailments, and has been adding more products to its portfolio.
Progenics' Relistor is an injected drug used in patients taking opioid painkillers, which often cause severe constipation. Progenics, based in Tarrytown, N.Y., sold $16 million of Relistor worldwide last year.
On a conference call with analysts this morning, Salix CEO Carolyn Logan said the company believes Relistor has the potential to reach peak annual sales of a billion dollars.
Salix will seek approval for an oral treatment of the drug. When asked why Relistor has yet to achieve such sales potential, Logan said it may be that the drug didn't receive much attention due to Pfizer's acquisition of Wyeth.
Progenics licensed the drug to Wyeth.
"So like often times happens in a big acquisition like that, some smaller products can get lost and at that time Relistor just maybe did not receive all the attention it would receive in an organization such as ours," she said.
Salix shares fell 34 cents to $39.92 this morning. The stock is up 46 percent in the past year.