The pharmaceutical industry signed a key cooperation agreement with the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) on Tuesday to bolster early detection of new drugs that could be used for doping in sport.

"This is not going to be a cure, but this is going to be another string to our bow," WADA Director General David Howman told AFP.

The joint declaration between WADA and the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) is aimed at identifying medicinal compounds that have doping potential even before they are on the market, and speeding their detection in drugs tests.

"We know that some athletes are very interested by these products that are being developed because they believe they won't be detected," WADA Scientific director Olivier Rabin explained.

IFPMA executives acknowledged that some substances had been copied and used for doping in sport even before clinical trials and development of the drug had been completed for its proper medical use, often with counterfeit copies.

They declined to give details.

"IFPMA members recognise that medicines may be misused to enhance sporting performance, thereby creating unfair competition and putting athletes' health and even lives at risk," said IFPMA president Haruo Naito.

Medicines were meant to enhance health and were developed under strict legal and ethical guidelines with a set dosage for specific ailments, according to the federation.

"Doping is exactly the contrary of such kind of usage of the drugs," underlined Naito, who is also the chief executive of Japanese firm Eisai.

"With pharmaceutical companies working hand in hand with WADA, more resources will be brought to bear on the scourge of doping, leading to cleaner sports and healthier athletes," he added.

The agreement should pave the way for more direct deals between WADA and individual pharmaceutical firms on exchanging information, including details needed to detect the drugs, Howman said.

In return WADA guarantees the secrecy of any information it receives.

Officials acknowledged that landmark cooperation between WADA and Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche over CERA, a new variant of the banned blood-booster EPO (erythropoietin), and with Merck, influenced Tuesday's agreement.