Pfizer to Acquire Excaliard and Sell Lipitor Directly to Patients

Pfizer LogoPfizer is to acquire Excaliard, a privately-owned company which creates drugs for the treatment of skin fibrosis, often referred to as skin scarring.

As part of the acquisition, Pfizer is obtaining EXC 001, an antisense oligonucleotide currently in Phase II, which is designed to interrupt the process of fibrosis by inhibiting expression of connective tissue growth factor. Connective tissue growth factor is a growth factor that can be over-expressed in damaged skin or tissue following surgery or traumatic injury and result in disfigured skin scarring.

The Phase II program has so far produced positive clinical results in reducing scar severity. Upon completion of the acquisition, Pfizer plan to continue developing EXC 001 to address the unmet medical needs of patients who suffer from excessive skin scarring.  There are currently no approved products in the USA to reduce scar severity.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, although Pfizer announced that they will make an upfront payment and further contingent payments if certain milestones are achieved. However, Isis Pharmaceuticals, which has a stake in Excaliard, revealed that they will receive up to $14 million as part of the deal, including a $4.4 million upfront fee, plus royalties. Isis has granted Excaliard an exclusive worldwide license agreement for certain antisense drugs, including EXC 001.

Pfizer noted that in the USA alone, there are over 35 million surgical procedures yearly and despite the best surgical technique and post-operative wound care, many procedures result in skin scarring. Over 1.5 million cosmetic surgical procedures were carried out in 2009, the firm noted, adding that opportunities exist in other non-cosmetic surgical scars such as Caesarian sections (1.3 million a year in the USA), as well as trauma and burn patients.

Jose-Carlos Gutierrez-Ramos, senior vice president, Biotherapeutics, Worldwide R&D, Pfizer, commented that “the science behind Excaliard’s lead compound aligns well with our R&D focus on new treatments for fibrosis and tissue remodelling.  We view EXC 001 as being well-positioned to potentially become a novel, transformative therapy in a space with limited available treatment options.”

Gordon Foulkes, Excaliard’s chief executive, noted that the firm was formed just four years ago and “since that time, using a virtual organisation and maximum outsourcing, we were able to move from lead generation to the completion of three Phase II trials”.

Meanwhile, it has been reported by The Wall Street Journal that Pfizer is planning to sell their soon-to-be off-patent cholesterol-lowerer Lipitor (atorvastatin) at generic prices directly to patients.

The newspaper reports that Pfizer has teamed up with Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy to give Lipitor to patients who order the blockbuster directly. It adds that agreements have been reached with various health plans so that the branded product will cost the same as a generic version. Lipitor goes off-patent in the USA at the end of November.


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