Source - SMW
Prescriptions of Vernalis' cough cold syrup Tuzistra XR continue to grow steadily, up 85% in the 22 weeks to 1 December.

However, the group said with 70% of the 2017/18 cough cold season remaining, growth will need to accelerate in the four months to March 2018, when typically almost half of the annual cough cold prescriptions are written, if it is to achieve target growth of 200% over the prior year.   

The growth is against a background of a continuing decline in the narcotic portion of the prescription cough cold market. 

Year-to-date, the combined prescribing of codeine and hydrocodone-based cough cold products is down 13% compared to the same period in the prior year, which itself was down 14% compared to 2015/16. 

Over the past two years, the combined prescribing of codeine and hydrocodone cough products has fallen by 25%. 

This decline in prescribing reflects continued public focus on the level of usage of opiate based products that are prescribed to treat pain.    In addition to this decline in the level of narcotic prescribing, restrictions on the size of narcotic prescriptions have also been introduced by some US States, health insurance plans and physicians. This has resulted in a decline in the average size of a Tuzistra XR prescription from approximately 160 ml in the prior year to approximately 145-150 ml in the current year-to-date.  

Vernalis also has one non-narcotic product in development (CCP-06) and its two most advanced pipeline products (CCP-07 and CCP-08), like Tuzistra XR, are both targeting the narcotic portion of the market but include additional active ingredients that can extend their market reach.

The company's unaudited cash position (including cash and cash equivalents and held to maturity assets), was £48.9 million at 11 December. The cash position has been negatively impacted by the weakening of the US dollar since 30 June 2017.

Ian Garland, CEO of Vernalis, said: "We are encouraged by the steady growth in Tuzistra XR prescriptions, despite the general negativity in the US surrounding the use of narcotic-based drugs. Whilst we need to see acceleration in prescription growth to achieve our total prescription market guidance of a threefold increase in prescription volume, we are early in the cough cold season and the US commercial team is executing a disciplined plan to accelerate growth over the coming months." 

At 8:49am: (LON:VER) Vernalis PLC share price was -2.94p at 9.56p