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From an original article in the Los Angeles Times - Friday, June 29, 2001

Icos Seeks Approval of
Impotence Drug

By Denise Gellene, Times Staff Writer


A small biotechnology firm whose investors include a co-founder of Amgen Inc. and Microsoft's Bill Gates sought government approval Thursday of an impotence drug that would challenge the blockbuster Viagra.

Icos Corp., based in Bothell, Wash., said its drug Cialis lasts up to six times longer than Viagra, which wears off after four hours. Icos spokeswoman Lacy Fitzpatrick said the longer duration of Cialis means men needn't "watch the clock" after taking the medication.

"Four hours is a small window," Fitzpatrick said. Cialis has been shown in clinical studies to be effective for up to 24 hours.

Cialis would be the first drug for Icos, which is developing the medication in partnership with Eli Lilly & Co. A decision about approval from the Food and Drug Administration isn't expected before mid-2002.

Peter F. Drake, an analyst with Prudential Securities in New York, said sales of Cialis could reach $123 million next year and $590 million in 2003. He said the Icos drug is superior to Viagra because it appears to be more convenient with fewer side effects.

Viagra can cause blurred vision in some men who use it. Although Cialis works in a manner that is similar to Viagra, it does not seem to cause vision problems, Fitzpatrick said.

Icos shares rose nearly 6.8% on Thursday, closing up $4.05 at $64 on Nasdaq. The company, founded in 1990, is unprofitable. Lilly shares fell 34 cents to $73.68 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Cialis is the furthest along in a race to launch competitors to Pfizer Inc.'s Viagra, a hugely successful drug with expected 2001 worldwide sales of $1.6 billion. Bayer also is working on a longer acting impotence medication, but has not yet filed for FDA approval.

A spokesman for Pfizer expressed confidence that Viagra would remain the "first line treatment" for erectile dysfunction. A recent study supported by Pfizer showed that 96% of men who have used Viagra for two to three years are satisfied with the drug, said spokesman Geoff Cook.

Cook said the marketplace can accommodate more than one medication, as only 15% of men who might benefit from erectile dysfunction drugs use them.

Icos was founded in 1990 by George B. Rathman, who was instrumental in launching Thousand Oaks-based Amgen, now the world's largest biotechnology company.

Rathman, chairman and chief executive of Sunnyvale biotechnology start-up Hyseq, owned 5.1% of Icos as of March 30, according to the company's regulatory filings. Icos' biggest shareholder on that date was Gates, who owned 10.7%.

© 2001 Los Angeles Times

 

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