Regent Pacific mutates into selling pharmaceuticals to save sagging fortunes

Company to begin selling Fortacin spray-on treatment for men’s premature ejaculation in Hong Kong by the end of 2017

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 November, 2016, 6:39pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 November, 2016, 10:36pm

Regent Pacific Group said it plans to begin selling a spray-on treatment in Hong Kong for men’s premature ejaculation by the end of 2017, in the former coal miner’s latest transformation to reverse its financial slump.

Shares of the company jumped almost 84 per cent on November 14 in Hong Kong, after Regent rolled out the first batch of its Fortacin drug in Britain, with plans to sell the treatment in Germany, Spain and France by Italian pharmaceutical company Recordati SpA. Regent shares have tripled to HK$0.61 in two weeks since the announcement.

This is the latest transformation in the company’s 25-year history, from financial services during the 1990s to coal mining in 2005 and now to pharmaceuticals.

Founded by Jim Mellon -- renowned as Britain’s answer to Warren Buffett for turning fortunes out of Russia’s transformation during the 1990s -- Regent Pacific last year bought British drugmaker Plethora Solutions Holdings, which had received EU regulatory approval for its formula to treat premature ejaculation.

China and Japan may have to wait three or four years for Fortacin, as local laws require clinical trials for imported medicines to be repeated for the drug’s entry into Asia’s two largest economies, said Regent’s chief science officer Michael Wyllie.

“I developed Viagra many years ago. For every thousand who suffers from erectile dysfunction, there is one thousand suffering from this as well,”Wyllie said in an interview with the South China Morning Post. “There is roughly one out of three or four individuals that experience it.”

One of the masterminds behind Viagra, the Scotsman spent one and a half decades with the US pharmaceutical company that produces some of the world’s best-selling drugs such as Lipitor and Lyrica. It took his team three years to develop formulation and another three years to see it go through clinical trials for regulatory approval.

Since Viagra’s rise to fame in the late 1990s, erectile dysfunction (ED) has been at the centre of media coverage of men’s sexual impotance, although medical research indicated that it was generally less prevalent than premature ejaculation (PE).

University of Chicago studies based on a sample of 2,865 people showed that from 18 to 59, PE affects more men than ED. About 16 per cent of nearly 5,000 men polled in the Asia-Pacific met the criteria for a diagnosis of PE, according to another 2011 study.

“This problem can lead to stress and tensions, and do harm to patients’ relationships with their partners,”said Professor Anthony Ng with the Chinese University’s medical school.

Most common medications adopted are certain antidepressants like Lexapro, whose side effects on the brain happen to relieve the problem, while Wyllie claimed the Fortacin spray did not go to the circulation as the oral pills did, leading to fewer side effects.

But it will still take some time for the drug to go on sale in the US and Asia, where Regent Pacific plans to license the drug to local pharmaceuticals for sale and distribution, with all the deals tipped to complete by 2018.

A launch in mainland China, the world’s most populous nation where Viagra has become a household name, will be both costly and time-consuming due to stringent health-care standards, said the former Pfizer scientist.

“In the US, we will be finishing the license of the drug in the mid of 2018, we are signing another deal with another pharmaceutical company for Asia-Pacific,” Wyllie said. “The data we’ve got so far will allow the launch initially for Thailand, South Korea, Singapore.”

Louis Tse, a director with VC brokerage, said while the trending investment theme of health-care could propelled the rise of Regent Pacific’s shares in the short to mid term, the question of the PE treatment business’s profitability remains.

“You get some pharmaceuticals in China and India who are good at producing copycat versions of blockbuster drugs, which raised a concern for Regent Pacific when its drug sales ramp up in Asia,” said Tse.