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Canada’s Biovail Buys Prestwick Pharmaceuticals

Drugmaker has bought privately held U.S. drug company Prestwick Pharmaceuticals for $100 million, company officials said Wednesday.

TORONTO (AP) -- Canadian drugmaker Biovail Corp. has bought privately held U.S. drug company Prestwick Pharmaceuticals Inc. for US$100 million, company officials said Wednesday.

Prestwick holds Canadian and U.S. licensing rights to Xenazine, a drug that treats chorea, a disorder associated with Huntington's disease that causes involuntary muscle movement.

The drug was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and its U.S. commercial launch is expected late this year.

"The transaction meets all of our acquisition criteria, and represents Biovail's first commercial exposure to specialty markets in central nervous system, or CNS disorders," Biovail CEO Bill Wells said in a statement.

"The acquisition is another important step in the implementation of our new strategic focus," added Wells.

Biovail is retooling its business after a lengthy battle with founder and major shareholder Eugene Melnyk, owner of the Ottawa Senators hockey club.

Earlier this year, Melnyk attempted to replace the company's board of directors with his own dissident slate of nominees in a spat over the company's direction.

Melnyk favored sticking with the company's traditional mix of hard-to- replicate generic products, while Wells, appointed CEO earlier this year, drew up a new strategic plan that sees the company primarily producing drugs for the central nervous system.

Wells managed to win out in a proxy vote held at the company's reconvened annual meeting on Aug. 8.

The company has also settled several legal battles that erupted between 2001 and 2004, some involving the commercial launch of Cardizem LA., while Melnyk headed up the company as CEO and chairman.

Investigations are still continuing into some of the legal issues facing the company.

Prestwick is also developing other early-stage products, including Lisuride Sub Q for advanced Parkinson's disease, the Lisuride Patch for Parkinson's disease and D-Serine for schizophrenia.

Biovail stock was down 18 Canadian cents at C$10.70 in trading Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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