Portuguese drug taking on the world

A drug which treats epilepsy, pain and depression which has been solely developed in Portugal has come onto the European market.

Zebinix, produced by Trofa-based pharmaceutical company Bial, took 15 years to develop under the code name bia2093.

The small, white oval pill, which is already on sale in Germany, Austria, Denmark and the United Kingdom, will be available from pharmacies in Portugal from 2010.

The company says that the process of developing the new drug from the roots upwards cost 300 million euros.

The chemical composition of the Portuguese drug is eslicarbazepina acetate, which is a sodium canal inhibitor which balances the high-frequency neurone activity associated with an epileptic fit.

But the drug can also be used to treat neuropathy pain and some psychiatric illnesses such as depression.

Now Portugal’s largest independent pharmaceutical company says that it won’t stop at this pioneering drug.

Its team of 100 scientists is currently working on a number of drugs to fight heart and Parkinson disease.

“It was an extremely difficult project and a long, uphill struggle to develop a drug from the roots in Portugal,” said Bial President Luís Portela.

“A lot of patience, persistence, creativity and the willingness to take a huge risk by investing for years without any guarantee of a return were necessary.”