Pharmaceutical firm Depomed has signed an agreement with Janssen Pharmaceuticals to acquire its US rights to the Nucynta franchise for $1.5bn.

Under the deal, Depomed will assume the US license and related royalty obligations for Nucynta to Grunenthal, the originator of tapentadol.

Depomed president Jim Schoeneck said: "We believe that Nucynta is an ideal strategic fit for Depomed, a rare opportunity to add a proprietary, differentiated drug with a lengthy period of exclusivity that fits precisely into our therapeutic focus.

"Nucynta has composition of matter patent protection to August 2022, a potential paediatric extension into 2023, and additional patents that could extend beyond that timeframe."

"Depomed will assume the US license and related royalty obligations for Nucynta to Grunenthal, the originator of tapentadol."

The Nucynta franchise comprises Nucynta ER (tapentadol) extended release tablets indicated to treat pain, including neuropathic pain associated with diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN), which is severe enough to require daily, around-the-clock and long-term opioid treatment.

In addition, the agreement covers Nucynta (tapentadol), an immediate release version of tapentadol to treat moderate to severe acute pain in adults, and Nucynta oral solution, which is an approved oral form of tapentadol that has not been launched.

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Tapentadol is a centrally-acting synthetic analgesic where exact mechanism of action is unknown, while Nucynta ER is an oral analgesic.

Subject to customary closing conditions and completion of financing, the transaction is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2015.

In the US, Nucynta was approved in November 2008, while Nucynta ER was approved in August 2011.