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Nektar Therapeutics’ (NKTR - Analyst Report) shares gained more than 9% on Mar 18, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notified the company and its partner AstraZeneca (AZN - Analyst Report) that the Anesthetic and Analgesic Drug Products Advisory Committee meeting on mu-opioid antagonists, including naloxegol, is tentatively scheduled for Jun 11-12, 2014. Naloxegol is being developed for the treatment of opioid induced constipation

The advisory board meeting was originally scheduled on Mar 10-11, 2014, but had to be rescheduled due to some conflicts. The agenda of the meeting will be to discuss the cardiovascular safety and potential additional safety study requirements of the mu-opioid antagonists.

As per a 2009 agreement, AstraZeneca was granted worldwide and exclusive rights to develop, market and sell naloxegol and naloxegol fixed-dose combination program. We note that naloxegol is under review in the U.S. for the treatment of opioid induced constipation. A final decision on the approval of the candidate is expected by Sep 16, 2014. Naloxegol is also under review in the EU and Canada for the same indication.

AstraZeneca intends to launch naloxegol in the U.S. and the EU in early 2015, which will trigger $100 million and $40 million, respectively, of milestone payments for Nektar. The successful development and commercialization of the candidate is important for Nektar. However, we remain concerned as the constipation market currently looks crowded with the presence of companies like Forest Laboratories .

Nektar currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Some better-ranked stocks in the same sector include Alexion Pharmaceuticals (ALXN - Analyst Report) with a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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