The new agreement marks an ongoing strategy by Ethypharm to roll its technologies out into Asian markets. Last year, the company entered into a promotion and marketing agreement with Interpharma to tackle the Asia-Pacific region.
Kowa is the first company to adopt Ethypharm's Flashtab drug delivery system in Japan, although a sustained-release morphine sulphate product based on the latter's microgranule technology - MS-Twicelon - was introduced there in 2001.
The two companies plan to develop Flashtab versions of the panikillers paracetamol and ibuprofen for the Japanese market. Under the terms of the agreement, Kowa gets exclusive rights in Japan for these two products and will be responsible for their approval, marketing and distribution under its own trademark in Japan. Launches are scheduled for 2007.
While still used in only a minority of oral medicines - with estimated annual sales $1.7 billion (€1.5bn) in 2002 - fast-melt delivery is experiencing 40 per cent growth a year as companies turn to it to differentiate their products in the marketplace.
A Flashtab formulation typically combines Ethypharm's T-Mask taste-masking crystals with specific excipients (such as flavourings) to provide a palatable oral formulation that has the ability to disperse in the mouth in less than 30 seconds.
The technology combines both taste masking and rapid dispersion, is not limited by the particular characteristics of the active ingredient, can handle doses up to 650mg and - claims the company - is less costly to manufacture than other more complex competing systems
Other companies offering fast-melt technologies include Cardinal Health with its Zydis system, CIMA Labs (OraSOLV, DuraSOLV) and Eurand (AdvaTab).