Konanda Parma Partners, New York-based venture-capital fund recently made public that they’re interested in raising $300 million to invest in companies that work with “underutilized” pharmaceuticals.  Their idea is that they would take a drug which as already been approved (by doing this they would be saving tons of money, time and headaches by by-passing the FDA’s NDA process) and underutilized for whatever the reason, pump and money and PR into it and get the doctors to prescribe it more.

Theoretically speaking, this is a brilliant idea, not a completely new one, but a great one none the less.  King Pharmaceuticals has made the idea very successful.  I’ve gotten to know John Gregory, the chairman and owner, better and we both went to the same pharmacy school.

My real concern with Konanda’s plans is wondering how many pharmacist and doctors they have working for them.  King Pharmaceuticals is successful because they know drugs and they know whether or not a drug is successful based upon the it’s phase 3 trials and chemical make-up.  In the end, it doesn’t really matter how much money to you pour into a drug, if it’s a poor drug, it’s not going to be successful.  I do wish them well, it is a great idea!

To date, Konanda has funded Validus Pharmaceuticals, which bought an antidepressant called Marplan from Oxford Pharmaceutical Services and a bipolar treatment from Shire.

Marplan (isocarboxazid) is an irreversible monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI).  It was classified in 1959 by the FDA as “probably” effective after TCAs and electroshock therapy have failed.  After substantial evidence by the company, in August 18, 1998, the FDA approved isocarboxazid as second-line treatment for depression.  By this time, their patent on the drug has probably ran out and generic companies will be able to reproduce the drug.

MAOI drugs have a lot of interactions with other drugs and are generally not used if a patient is concurrently taking other medications.  MAOI would tend to work best in otherwise healthy adults who have depression.  One last note, as of August 15, 2004, the FDA requires that all antidepressants carry a Black Box warning about their safety, especially in regards to children and adolescence.  (Doctors generally shy away from prescribing drugs with Black Box warnings because of their high risk factors).   The FDA has promised to review this labeling as early as fall of 2006.