As Pacira braces itself ahead of the FDA decision of Heron Therapeutics’ rival non-opioid treatment, the company is beefing up its pain management franchise, by acquiring a system that uses intensely cold therapy on a specific nerve to relieve pain, to complement its flagship Exparel treatment.
Pacira $PCRX on Tuesday said it was acquiring privately-held medical technology company MyoScience for $120 million upfront to secure access to the latter’s ioveraº system — an FDA-approved handheld device used to deliver precise, controlled doses of cold temperature only to targeted nerves, which are thus thwarted from sending pain signals — easing pain and allowing for decreased opioid consumption. Pain relief can last up to three months, as the nerve regenerates over time and resumes signaling. The system is approved for symptoms associated with osteoarthritis of the knee as well as general surgical use.
Pacira, which counts J&J $JNJ as a partner, is planning ahead for potential competition for its mainstay non-opioid treatment Exparel. Heron Therapeutics’ $HRTX rival HTX-011 has won priority review and the FDA is expected to announce its decision on the product by April 30.
Heron’s product delivers bupivacaine and a low dose of meloxicam over 72 hours, reducing inflammation at the wound site in order to maintain pH, allowing the bupivacaine to work better. Meanwhile, Exparel’s main ingredient is also bupivacaine and the drug has been approved by the US regulator since October 2011 as a treatment for postsurgical analgesia, and remains the sole FDA-approved long-acting, non-opioid painkiller.
Measures to reduce the prescription of opioid painkillers are being taken, but research, development and the eventual approval of equally pain alleviating products will go a long way in turning the tide of opioid-related deaths.
Various analysts have suggested that the data indicate Heron’s product is superior to Exparel.
In a note earlier this month, Leerink analysts wrote that while “Exparel does a good job reducing opioid use for post-op pain; HTX-011 could do this better,” citing a KOL survey. “…it (Exparel) has done a good job in reducing opioid use and hospitalization time in its post-operative patients, the duration of efficacy is in the 24-36 hour range. As such, this KOL believes the longer potential duration of efficacy and the instillation method of HTX-011 will result in initial use of the product. But upon availability of both products, this KOL believes hospitals will run their own pilot studies in various surgical models to see how they compare to one another.”
It remains to be seen whether HTX-011 — if approved — will bag the coveted opioid sparing claim. As for Pacira, it expects that the MyoScience product will complement Exparel and together provide an “effective, non-opioid multimodal regimen that can help mitigate or even eliminate the use of opioids for managing pain before, during and after surgery.”
The deal, expected to close in April, offers MyoScience shareholders potentially up to $100 million in milestone payments.
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