Cipher Pharmaceuticals gets Health Canada approval for new acne drug

Mississauga drug company Cipher Pharmaceuticals Inc. (TSX:DND) has received Health Canada approved for its new acne drug Epuris.

The new medication will be available by prescription for patients 12 years and older, who can take the treatment once or twice a day for five months.

A company statement Tuesday said Epuris provided “more reliable absorption” than the Hoffman-La Roche Ltd’s brand name original version of the drug, Accutane, when taken without food.

Hoffman-La Roche took Accutane off the U.S. market in June 2009, citing low market share and the high cost of many personal-injury lawsuits filed by patients.

“The approval of Epuris is a critical milestone in our plans to create a commercial presence in dermatology and other specialty markets in Canada,” the company said.

Skin care has become a growing market for many Canadian drug makers — on both sides of the life cycle. The market for teen acne medicine is growing, but so is the market for other skin drugs.

The former Mississauga-based Biovail Corp., now called Valeant and since moved to Montreal, launched a $2.6 billion bid earlier this fall to buy  Medicis Pharmaceutical, an American company best-known products include Solodyn along with Restylane and Dysport, which all compete directly with anti-wrinkle creams and Botox.

Cipher president and CEO Larry Andrews said  “pre-commercial activities have commenced, including the addition, in the coming months, of a specialized dermatology sales and marketing team in preparation for the launch in Q2 2013.”

The drug launch next year could create new employment opportunities in marketing and other parts of the drug industry.

Earlier this week, Mayor Hazel McCallion said she backs proposal changes to drug patents that would raise the costs of brand name drugs but help spur growth at companies like Tomken Rd.-based Cipher, which develop new medicines.

The Canadian government is currently considering extending patent protection from eight years to 10. In a recent op-ed column, McCallion said the move would benefit research companies in Mississauga’s ‘Pill Hill’ economic cluster.

“Intellectual property is a major factor in what makes a nation attractive to investors,” McCallion wrote in an column sent to and other media outlets Monday.

“Patent term restoration and extended data protection give investors a measure of assurance that they will see a return on the money they spend,” she said.

According to the Canadian Dermatology Association, acne affects more than five million Canadians, with 80 per cent of those affected between the ages of 12 and 24.

Acne can also develop in adults, with 75 per cent of adult acne occurring in women. According to Cipher, drugs like Epuris and Accutane are the most commonly prescribed medication for severe acne and have an estimated market size of $15 million in Canada.


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