Aequus Pharmaceuticals Inc bringing diverse pipeline of new drugs to the Canadian market

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  • Focused on developing and commercializing high-quality products
  • Pipeline includes several commercial products in ophthalmology and transplant
  • Also has a development stage pipeline in neurology

What Aequus Pharmaceuticals does

Aequus Pharmaceuticals Inc () () is a specialty pharmaceutical company focused on developing and commercializing high quality, differentiated products.

The Vancouver-based company takes medications that are already available in the US or elsewhere and licenses or acquires the Canadian rights, then takes the clinical data that supported that approval and works with Health Canada, Canada’s national health system, to get them approved and commercialized in Canada.

Aequus intends to commercialize its internal programs in Canada alongside its current portfolio of marketed established medicines and looks to form strategic partnerships that would maximize the reach of its product candidates worldwide.

The company has expanded its pipeline to include several commercial products in Opthalmology and transplant and also has a development stage pipeline in neurology with the goal of addressing a need for improved medication adherence through enhanced delivery systems.

In Ophthamology, the company has launched Vistitan, which reduces the pressure inside the eyes of patients with glaucoma and was first marketed by Swiss-owned pharmaceutical giant , as well as Evolve preservative-free, dry-eye products, developed with partner Medicom

Aequus has also launched transplant therapy Tacrolimus – also licensed from Sandoz – which aims to treat and prevent acute rejection following an organ transplant.

In its development pipeline, the company has a transdermal cannabis product, AQS1304 for neurological disorders; a transdermal anti-nausea drug, AQS1303; and an epilepsy treatment, Topiramate XR licensed from .

How is it doing:

On March 1, 2021, Aequus Pharmaceuticals announced the commercial availability of the Evolve preservative-free lubricating eye drops for dry eye care. The company said the premium formulations – ‘Intensive Daily’ drops, with the gold standard 0.2% sodium hyaluronate, and the unique, triple action ‘Intensive Gel’ drops, containing hyaluronate, carbomer 980 and glycerol – will provide soothing hydration and symptom relief for patients with dry eye disease.

It said the products will be available exclusively for sale by eye care clinics in Canada, where patients can receive the full benefit of dry eye treatment plans when they are diagnosed, prescribed, and monitored by eye care professionals. 

Launched in 2015 in Europe, the Evolve brand has grown to 5 products across 35 countries. With an array of products, the brand can address the various symptoms involved with dry eye disease and blepharitis including discomfort, stinging, burning, and dryness. Currently in Canada, the dry eye market is estimated at over $90 million, which includes both prescription and over-the-counter products.

On other products front, in October last year, Aequus revealed that it had agreed to an extension of terms for its promotional service agreement on the Sandoz drug tacrolimus immediate-release (tacrolimus IR), which is used to prevent patient rejection after organ transplants. The company said that it has extended its commercial agreement on tacrolimus with Sandoz Canada Inc to December 31, 2021.

Aequus began promoting Sandoz’s generic tacrolimus In December 2015. Tacrolimus has since achieved “over 10x growth” in Canada through increased brand awareness and new patient adoption programs, according to the company, the group said.

Looking at its financials, on November 30, 2020, Aequus reported a double-digit year-over-year jump in revenue for its third quarter thanks to better market access and increased sales of Vistitan and Tacrolimu. The company posted revenue in the three months ended September 30, 2020, of C$618,984, a 67% increase from the same quarter in 2019. Aequus also saw its 3Q net loss decrease to C$251,921, down 62% year-over-year. The loss for the nine-month period to the same date was C$879,984, a decrease of 57% year-over-year.

In the boardroom, in November last year, the company announced that co-founder Anne Stevens was stepping down as its chief operating officer. Aequus said Stevens will remain a director of the company and continue to serve on its board. Earlier in the year, Aequus revealed that entrepreneur Grant Larsen had been hired as the company’s chief commercial officer, effective August 17 2020, noting that he had almost 20 years of senior management positions in North American eye care.

And on February 12, 2021, Aequus announced that Marc Lustig had agreed to join its board of directors concurrent with making a $1 million direct equity investment in the company. Lustig currently serves as a director at cannabis companies Cresco Labs and Pharmacielo Ltd, he is also chairman of both cannabis investment firm Trichome Financial Corp and medical cannabis group  Cannabis.

On the financing front, in August last year, Aequus closed around a C$2.5 million equity financing to raise funds to launch the Evolve line of dry eye products. The company issued 31,250,000 units at a price of C$0.08 per unit. Aequus currently trades at C$0.215 per share on the Toronto Venture Exchange.

What the boss says:

“We are excited to launch the Evolve line of dry eye products in Canada, as they will not only improve treatment and compliance for better patient outcomes but create an improved revenue stream for professionals who spend additional time and resources treating dry eye patients in practice,” said Grant Larsen, chief commercial officer for Aequus Pharmaceuticals in the March 1 statement. 

“This launch adds another 2 products to our growing Eye Care portfolio and represents a significant revenue opportunity for Aequus going forward,” he added. 

Contact the author at [email protected]

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Kathy Laura

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