Elan says U.S. approves Avinza pain drug


DUBLIN, March 21 (Reuters) - Irish drugs company Elan Corp said on Thursday it had been granted approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to market Avinza, its once-daily treatment for chronic and moderate-to-severe pain.

The company, which has lost over two-thirds of its value this year largely due to an accounting scandal, said it expected to launch Avinza in the second quarter of this year.

Analysts said the new drug would provide only a modest income in 2002 but its approval would provide a badly-needed boost to Elan's product sales base.

"We are expecting Elan to receive revenues of $15 million in 2002 from this drug," David Marshall, analyst with NCB stockbrokers, said in a research note.

The news failed to lift Elan's shares, which were hammered on Wednesday after Moody's Investors Service downgraded the company's debt ratings to junk status on the back of weak operating cash flow from core product sales.

By 0930 GMT, Elan was trading down 0.96 percent at 15.50 euros in a Dublin market 0.29 percent weaker.

Elan's share price has been on a downward spiral since mid-January following the abandonment of trials into its Alzheimer's treatment, a profit warning for 2002 and a probe into allegations of deceptive accounting practices by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Elan licensed the U.S. and Canadian marketing rights for Avinza to Ligand Pharmaceuticals Inc in 1998, but retains these rights for the rest of the world.

04:51 03-21-02