Healthcare Industry News:  Helicobacter pylori 

Biopharmaceuticals Gastroenterology FDA

 News Release - March 29, 2006

Axcan submits FDA amendment to its new drug application for HELIZIDE

MONT-SAINT-HILAIRE, QC, March 29 (HSMN NewsFeed) - Axcan Pharma Inc. (NASDAQ: AXCA - TSX: AXP) announced today that it has submitted an amendment to its New Drug Application ("NDA") for HELIZIDE, its patented capsule therapy for the eradication of Helicobacter pylori. Each HELIZIDE capsule contains biskalcitrate potassium (140 mg), metronidazole (125 mg) and tetracycline hydrochloride (125 mg). This amendment addresses earlier FDA questions related to manufacturing issues and is the final step before potential approval of the drug. Phase III clinical data have already been submitted to the FDA, and no safety or efficacy issues were raised.

"We are very pleased to be at this stage, as results of our Phase III studies indicate that HELIZIDE is effective in eradicating Helicobacter pylori. Furthermore, it is well known that resistance is an increasing issue, so it is extremely positive to have some excellent data confirming that HELIZIDE is also successful in patients who are resistant to some of the drugs used in current therapies," said Frank Verwiel, M.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Axcan. "Based on the review time needed by the FDA, we could launch HELIZIDE in the United States as early as the first half of calendar 2007. The U.S. patent on the use of a double capsule for the administration of the HELIZIDE triple therapy will expire in December 2018, which gives us ample time to penetrate the $150 million U.S. market. In parallel, we are currently working on filing in the European Union," he concluded.


The Phase III North American trials conducted on 275 patients with a history of duodenal ulcer compared Axcan's HELIZIDE regimen (3 capsules given 4 times a day) given in combination with two daily doses of 20 mg of omeprazole, to the widely used OAC combination (20 mg of omeprazole, 1 g of amoxicillin and 500 mg of clarithromycin, all given twice a day). On an intent-to-treat basis, the eradication rates were 88% and 83%, respectively, in favor of HELIZIDE.

In the group of patients with a metronidazole-resistant strain of Helicobacter pylori (41% of patients at the start of the study), Helicobacter pylori eradication was achieved in 80% of patients treated with HELIZIDE. In the group of clarithromycin-resistant patients (12% of patients at the beginning of the study), only 21% were successfully treated with OAC. These results confirm that HELIZIDE has the potential to be used as a first-line therapy for the eradication of Helicobacter pylori, the main cause of duodenal ulcers, as it is also successful in eradicating Helicobacter pylori even in patients who have a metronidazole-resistant strain of Helicobacter pylori.

ABOUT Helicobacter pylori

The discovery in 1983 of the Helicobacter pylori organism was one of the major advances in gastroenterology in recent decades, as it revolutionized the approach to many upper gastrointestinal disorders. Helicobacter pylori is now recognized as one of the most important causes of gastric and duodenal ulcers, which affect at least 10% of the North American population at one point in their lives. It is believed to cause a spectrum of diseases in humans, including gastritis, ulcer disease (gastric and duodenal), gastric cancer, and gastric lymphoma. Existing ulcer treatment regimens lead to high recurrence rates. Gastric and duodenal ulcers recur respectively in approximately 40% to 80% of patients within a year after having received short-term treatment with acid suppression therapy. Studies have shown that the recurrence rate of peptic ulcers after one year is only 2% in patients in whom the organism has been eradicated.


Axcan is a leading specialty pharmaceutical company specialized in the field of gastroenterology. Axcan markets a broad line of prescription products sold for the treatment of symptoms in a number of gastrointestinal diseases and disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, cholestatic liver diseases and complications related to Cystic Fibrosis. Axcan's products are marketed by its own sales force in North America and the European Union. Its common shares are listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol "AXP" and on the NASDAQ National Market under the symbol "AXCA".

"Safe Harbor" statement under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.

This release contains forward-looking statements, which reflect the Company's current expectations regarding future events. To the extent any statements made in this release contain information that is not historical, these statements are essentially forward looking and are often identified by words such as "anticipate," "expect," "estimate," "intend," "project," "plan" and "believe." Forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties, including the difficulty of predicting FDA and other regulatory approvals, acceptance and demand for new pharmaceutical products, the impact of competitive products and pricing, new product development and launch, reliance on key strategic alliances, availability of raw materials, the regulatory environment, fluctuations in operating results, the protection of our intellectual property and other risks detailed from time to time in the Company's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Canadian securities regulators, including under the Canadian Multijurisdictional Disclosure System.

The name HELIZIDE appearing in this press release is a trademark of Axcan Pharma Inc. and its subsidiaries.


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