TAP, a joint venture between US drugmaker Abbott Laboratories and Japan's Takeda, had been working with Flamel on an improved formulation of lansoprazole, the active ingredient in TAP's Prevacid. Micropump is a controlled-release system designed for orally-administered small molecule drugs.
The move follows the announcement by TAP on 30 August that it will begin Phase III studies on a single-enantiomer of lansoprazole, based on just one of the two forms of the molecule in the current racemic formulation.
This follows a path already navigated successfully by Anglo-Swedish firm AstraZeneca, which developed a single-enantiomer version of its blockbuster GI drug Losec/Prilosec (omeprazole) - which is in the same class as Prevacid - called Nexium (esomeprazole). Nexium achieved sales of $2.3 billion in the first half of this year, up more than 22 per cent over the same period of 2004, despite the fact that its parent compound has already succumbed to generic competition.
TAP's exit from the agreement is the latest in a string of disappointments at the French firm, relating both to Micropump and a technology called Medusa designed to improve the delivery of biologic drugs.
In March, Biovail pulled out of an agreement to develop a Micropump formulation of the antiviral drug acyclovir called Genvir, after failing to meet its own schedule for starting pivotal trials of the herpes treatment. And in late 2003 GlaxoSmithKline exited a pact to develop a Micropump version of its blockbuster antibiotic Augmentin (amoxicillin/cluvulanate) 'for commercial reasons'. However, GSK is still working with the company on a Micropump formulation of its beta-blocker Coreg (carvedilol).
Meanwhile, Bristol-Myers Squibb pulled out of an agreement to develop a formulation of insulin based on the Medusa platform a year ago.
Flamel chief executive Stephen Willard, who took over the firm after its founder and former CEO Gerard Soula was ousted by rebel shareholders in June, insisted that TAP's decision did not reflect badly on the Micropump technology.
"Our formulation is a strong one. It met the goals for the formulation sufficient for payment of the success milestone in the first quarter of this year. It performed well against currently available products in a number of clinical trials," he said.
Willard said Flamel would now determine the best way to achieve further value for the technology with respect to this class of compounds.