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Avanir Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (AVNR - Snapshot Report) announced that data revealing dextromethorphan has antidepressant-like effects in vivo was recently published in PLOS ONE. The data from the study showed that this effect occurs at least in part through a sigma-1 receptor dependent mechanism.

Avanir’s candidate, AVP-786, contains deuterium-modified dextromethorphan and quinidine. AVP-786 is being developed for the treatment of neurologic and psychiatric disorders.

Earlier this week, Avanir announced its intention to present data from a benchmark study of pseudobulbar affect (PBA) symptoms in veterans with mild traumatic brain injury (TBI).

In this study, a screening questionnaire was sent to around 4,283 people within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) system suffering from TBI. The company said that 60% of the respondents reported PBA symptoms.

The study data will increase awareness about the symptoms of PBA. This study was conducted in collaboration with VA to develop a screening protocol for identifying PBA symptoms. This will help to reach out to veterans suffering from TBI and at a greater risk of PBA.

We note that Avanir’s sole marketed product Nuedexta is approved for the treatment of patients suffering from PBA. Net Nuedexta revenues for fiscal year 2013 (ending Sep 2013) grew 90.7% year over year to $70.7 million.

Avanir is looking to expand Nuedexta’s label. Nuedexta is currently being studied for two additional indications in phase II, one for the treatment of agitation in Alzheimer's disease (top-line data - second half calendar 2014) and the other for treating levodopa induced dyskinesia (LID) in patients suffering from Parkinson's disease (second half calendar 2014). Avanir enrolled the first patient in a proof–of-concept phase II study in LID. 

Avanir carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Investors looking for better-ranked stocks in the biopharma sector may consider companies like Questcor Pharmaceuticals, Inc. , Shire (SHPG - Analyst Report) and Alkermes (ALKS - Analyst Report), all of which carry a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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