Protalix Biotherapeutics, the Carmiel-based pharmaceutical firm, announced Wednesday that it had entered into a seven-year supply agreement with an affiliate of Brazil's Health Ministry to supply a minimum of $280 million worth of Uplyso, the company's drug treatment for Gaucher disease.
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In early trading Wednesday on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, Protalix shares were trading 7.6% higher for the day on heavy turnover on news of the deal, which includes a technology transfer component. Protalix has a commercialization agreement with the U.S.-based drug company Pfizer to market the drug outside of Israel. Proceeds from international sales of Uplyso are split 60% for Pfizer and 40% for Protalix.
Gaucher disease is a rare disorder affecting about 10,000 people worldwide in which fatty substances accumulate in cells and in certain organs of the body. It can affect the spleen and liver and can also cause skeletal disorders. It is thought that many of those affected by the disease do not receive treatment because of the high cost involved—from $15,000 per patient per year in Brazil to as much as $250,000 per year in the United States. Gaucher disease is particularly common among Ashkenazi Jews.
The deal with the Brazilian Health Ministry affiliate, Fiocruz, calls for the sale to the Brazilians of a minimum of $40 million of the product in the first two years and $40 million per year for the balance of the term of the seven-year contract. The deal also gives the Brazilians a license to establish their own production plant for Uplyso at their own expense. Protalix's obligation to transfer the required technological know-how does not kick in until the Brazilian agency has purchased at least $280 million worth of the drug.
If the quantities specified in the agreement are in fact supplied, Protalix and Pfizer could supplant Sanofi's Genzyme subsidiary as the largest supplier of Gaucher disease medication in Brazil, a country with a population of about 200 million people.
The Brazilian market for medications for the treatment of Gaucher disease is estimated at $65 million a year, and it is expected that the new agreement with Protalix will result on average of Uplyso sales of a little more than $150,000 a year per Gaucher patient in Brazil.