GW Pharma has signed a licence deal with Novartis to commercialise cannabis-based multiple sclerosis treatment Sativex in the Australian, Asian and African markets.

Novartis will gain exclusivity to sell the drug in Australia, New Zealand, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, excluding Japan, China and Israel.

In return, GW Pharma will receive an upfront payment of $5m and further payments totalling $28.75m dependent on approvals and milestones.

Sativex has already achieved regulatory approval in some European markets and is currently in Phase III clinical trials in the US, where it is licensed to Otsuka as a cancer pain medication.

Novartis fought off competition from a number of global pharmaceutical companies to win the licence. The company also intends to market the drug as a treatment for cancer pain.