OPKO Health has entered into a definitive agreement with Schering-Plough to acquire assets relating to Schering’s neurokinin-1 (NK-1) receptor antagonist programme.

The lead product in the programme, rolapitant, recently completed Phase II clinical testing, which showed positive indications for the prevention of nausea and vomiting related to cancer chemotherapy and surgery.

OPKO executive vice-president of research & development Jamie Freedman said that the profile of rolapitant and the positive clinical data generated so far are very promising.

“We believe rolapitant has the potential to be a best-in-class product for preventing nausea and vomiting in the post-surgical setting or induced by cancer chemotherapy drugs,” Freedman said.

“We will also be exploring various other uses of rolapitant.”

Due to the pending merger with Merck & Co, Schering-Plough is taking steps to divest its oral and intravenous formulations of rolapitant and other assets in its NK-1 programme.

These treatments are based on the activation of NK-1 receptors, which leads to the release of neurotransmitters and other signalling molecules that play a central role in controlling nausea and vomiting and other basic functions.

Closing of the transaction between OPKO and Schering-Plough is subject to completion of the merger.