A Novel Way of Treating Diarrhea

San-Francisco based Napo Pharmaceuticals has created a novel new drug against diarrhea which is quite unique in the way it works AND in how it is to be sold :

Crofelemer is unique in how it works because traditional anti-diarrhea medications like Lomotil and Loperamide decrease bowel motility, and are absorbed by the bloodstream. Crofelemer works locally, only in the gut, to stop the flow of “excess” water. (I use the term “excess” loosely because the water often lost in diarrhea cannot afford to be lost, and isn’t actually “excess” in the traditional sense of the word.)

This different mechanism of action is fantastic news for children whose immune systems haven’t fully developed, and AIDS patients whose immune systems are compromised: traditional anti-motility drugs can’t be used by either population because of their decreased immune response: allowing pathogens to linger longer in the GI tract can allow them to grow and infect the gut more than simply excreting them out. Crofelemer is unique because it doesn’t prevent bowel movements, it simply prevents diarrhea.

This drug discovered in the third world also has the greatest potential there: millions of children die every year from chronic diarrhea, and diarrhea can weaken those patients already dealing with AIDS, leading to quicker, higher mortality rates for that disease as well.

Aside from their drug being unique, Napo’s approach to making profits on Crofelemer is unique as well. The traditional model for creating profitable drugs is based on a first-world clientele: create a drug, and keep its prices high until the patent(s) expire to make up for the cost of bringing the drug to market. (Which can often reach and exceed half a billion dollars.) Napo, however, is skipping the first world and going right for the third world where the largest need and potential customer base is.

This could be great news for all the children and sick persons in third-world countries who can ill afford to lose (waste) any water they managed to acquire. There are also advantages too, for example for persons afflicted with the ‘irritable bowel syndrome’, aids patients and others who cannot digest or use the other existing drugs.

I think they are on to something here – selling drugs cheaply to large masses of people instead of only to rich people. PolyScience calls them the ‘Henry Fords of the medical industry’. Wait and see, is what I say.

In two other news items, Napo has licenced their drug to the Indian drug manfucturer Glenmark, with the drug being available in 2007.

Yahoo news :

Glenmark said it would have the exclusive right to develop the drug in more than 140 markets, outside North America, Japan, China and Europe.

Glenmark expects to launch the product in India and many other markets in 2007. It will pay Napo royalties ranging from “high single digits to early teens” on net sales of the product.

Glenmark said it will also participate in Napo’s latest round of financing by investing $1 million in its preferred stock.

Indian InfoLine:

“This collaboration will allow Napo to bring a novel therapy for these debilitating and sometimes deadly diseases to both traditional Western markets and resource constrained areas of the world,” Napo CEO Lisa Conte said.

“Glenmark currently manufactures several US FDA approved drugs, and they have the know-how to successfully deliver medicines to very large populations, which should ultimately provide for beneficial economies of scale and reduced cost of goods,” she added.