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HEARD ON THE BEAT / ORANGE COUNTY

CoCensys' Options

April 27, 1998|BARBARA MARSH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's no secret that the demands of the business world often skew the course of medical advances.

Consider, for instance, CoCensys Inc.'s recent about-face in pursuing uses for its experimental drug Ganaxolone. The drug passed muster in preliminary tests as a safe and effective therapy for epilepsy, with minimal side effects.

Now, however, the Irvine company is emphasizing the drug's equally promising potential as migraine medication.

Why not both uses? F. Richard Nichol, the small company's chief executive, says it would like to partner up with a big drug company to finish clinical tests required to seek regulatory approval to sell the medication.

But giant drug makers expect the medication could be priced higher in the U.S. market as a therapy for migraines rather than epilepsy, he says. "If you sell pills in the local drug store, the epilepsy market would force down the price," he says.

The company plans to test the drug in pill form in U.S. trials in 400 female migraine patients beginning this summer. However, Nichol expects the drug could be priced favorably as an epilepsy medication in Europe, so the company will press ahead with European trials for that application.

Barbara Marsh covers health care for The Times. She can be reached at (714) 966-7762 and at barbara.marsh@latimes.com.

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