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The Canadian company that invented the Visudyne treatment for age-related blindness will soon take over U.S. sales and marketing of its lead product from the Swiss pharmaceutical giant that has had the worldwide rights.

Vancouver-based QLT Inc. and Novartis Pharma AG have reworked their agreement on Visudyne so that the Canadian company will start marketing and selling the product in the United States starting Jan. 1, 2010.

QLT says it will continue to manufacture Visudyne and supply it to Novartis, which will pay the Canadian biotechnology company a percentage of sales until 2019.

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The two companies have also agreed to release each other from all claims they may have against each other, including those in connection to a patent battle that QLT is fighting in the United States over Visudyne.

Visudyne was QLT's first major commercial product. It's a two-step procedure that uses an injectable drug and a laser light to treat a form of age-related macular degeneration, also known as AMD. AMD is the leading cause of legal blindness in people over the age of 55.

Under the new agreement announced Monday, QLT will receive a 20 per cent royalty from Novartis from 2010 until the end of 2014 and for the remaining five years of the agreement the royalty will fall to 16 per cent of Visudyne sales.

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