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Chugai Pharmaceutical Co. said Thursday it has agreed to license its patents on medicine to treat rheumatoid arthritis to Swiss pharmaceutical firm Roche Holding AG.

Under the agreement, Roche is allowed to use patents on MRA worldwide — excluding Japan, South Korea and Taiwan — for joint development of the medicine now in clinical tests in Japan, Europe and the United States, Chugai said in a release.

MRA is the first drug to be licensed by Roche from Chugai since they officially implemented their strategic alliance in October.

In December 2001, Chugai and Roche agreed to form an alliance in Japan’s pharmaceutical market to convert the Tokyo-based drugmaker into a subsidiary of the Swiss company.

In February, Chugai and Roche agreed to jointly develop and promote MRA.