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Acura Pharma jumps on Nexafed pharmacy deal

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of Acura Pharmaceuticals Inc. surged Tuesday after the company said the Kerr Drug store chain will carry Acura's drug Nexafed, a decongestant that is designed to be difficult to make into methamphetamine.

Acura said Nexafed should be on shelves in Kerr's approximately 75 locations in North Carolina. Acura began selling Nexafed in December and said it expected early interest from independent drug stores rather than chains.

In morning trading, Acura Pharmaceuticals shares rose $1.14, or 56 percent, to $3.19.

Nexafed is a form of the decongestant pseudoephedrine. It contains inactive ingredients that turn into a thick gel if anyone tries to extract the pseudoephedrine. That means the chemical won't crystallize and can't be made into crystal meth. The Palatine, Ill., company said Nexafed will deliver the same cold and allergy relief as other versions of pseudoephedrine and it will cost about as much as similar cold and allergy remedies.

Legislators have taken steps in recent years to combat meth, including a law that took effect this year requiring retailers to enter information about the sale of medications that contains pseudoephedrine onto a national online tracking system.

Acura reported its fourth-quarter results Monday, and said that by the end of February it has entered distribution agreements with most national and regional drug wholesalers. The company said it took a loss of $3 million, or 6 cents per share, after taking a loss of $1.6 million, or 3 cents per share, in the final quarter of 2011. The company had no revenue in either quarter.

Acura lost $9.7 million, or 20 cents per share, in 2012 and reported no revenue. A year earlier Acura reported net income of $10.4 million, or 22 cents per share. The company reported $20.5 million in revenue in 2011, mostly from payments related to Pfizer Inc.'s pain drug Oxecta.

Oxecta is an immediate-release drug that contains oxycodone, the active ingredient in OxyContin. It was approved in the U.S. in 2011 and uses Acura's Aversion technology to discourage abuse by crushing and inhaling them or dissolving them for injection.