Friday, August 26, 2011

Deals Of The Week Battens Down The Hatches

Mother Nature, you've been busy this week. The entire East Coast population remains glued to Wunderground or The Weather Channel as it tracks the path of the lumbering hurricane Irene. The good news? After the strongest earthquake in nearly seven decades struck outside Washington DC, everyone should have already stocked up on batteries and bread. Just in case, you know, there's an after shock.

Yes, residents of the bankrupt but beautiful California mocked the twitter outcry that ensued after the 5.8 temblor. Consider it pay back for the repeated digs about our obsessions with tree-hugging, organic grass-fed lamb, Steve Jobs, and the Facebook IPO. Maybe the daily lack of humidity just makes us mean. Based on this blogger's perspective, the only truism that matters is that residents of neither coast know how to drive in the snow -- or rain.

If it's been quiet in biopharma land on the deal front, companies like Seattle Genetics are finding ways to make noise. Lots of noise. Hundreds of thousands of dollars per patient worth of noise. Yes, hard on the heels of the Friday August 19 approval of Adcetris came the Monday August 22 unveiling of SeaGen's pricing strategy for the new conjugated antibody. And it's ambitious: depending on the course of treatment, the biologic, which is approved for late-stage Hodgkin lymphoma and systemic anaplastic large cell lymphoma, could cost as $121,500 based on the clinical trial experience.

We applaud the company's chutzpah; the company's CEO, Clay Siegall has come out swinging as to why this hefty price will pass the ever higher bar payers set on "value". Indeed, this is the first drug for Hodgkin lymphoma in 30 years and boasts a strong objective response rate. And we understand that the two approved indications in the drug's label are not the most prevalent cancers, meaning insurers likely won't balk at paying the price tag, given the total dollars won't quickly run into the billions.

All of which is not so subtle messaging from Seattle Genetics execs that they think Adcetris won't suffer from what is now widely being termed the "Provenge Problem" (and before that "the Folotyn Foible") -- essentially the lackluster launch of a new oncologic in part because of the drug's high price tag. Still, given the lack of traction for Dendreon's Provenge in the marketplace, it's not surprising that investors reacted to SeaGen's pricing news with all the enthusiasm of Cleveland welcoming home its prodigal son, LeBron James.

Siegall and his commercial team are confident they won't repeat Provenge's mistakes. As we write in this week's "The Pink Sheet", the biotech has a plan -- an extended payment plan to be exact -- to overcome the reluctance of physicians, who may hesitate to front the cost of the drug before there is clarity on its reimbursement. That has apparently been a major issue for urologists when choosing between Provenge and other alternatives, like the significantly cheaper Zytiga from Johnson & Johnson.

But the twinning of Adcetris and Provenge may not ultimately prove the best comparison. What Seattle Genetics really wants to avoid is the Avastin issue. You see, while payers may not balk at shelling out $120K (or whatever the drug ultimately costs, since labeling permits administration of up to 16 cycles of the drug, which potentially raises the price tag north of $200,000) for a few thousand patients, eyebrows could rise as the biotech and its partner, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, look to expand the drug's label into more prevalent cancers like non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Especially if there aren't overall survival data and/or quality of life measures to support Adcetris's use in a particular indication.

You can bet the topic will be front and center at this year's 21st annual Pharmaceutical Strategic Alliances meeting (tune in September 22 for a discussion officially titled "The Changing Oncology Landscape and watch for #PSA11 tweets).

We know. You haven't had time to check out the agenda because you've mistakenly been crooning "Come On, Irene" all week. By now, you've bought the candles and the water. You've unearthed the hand-crank radio. Take a break from battening down the hatches and tune into another Category 5 edition of...

Baxter/Baxa: Publicly traded Baxter International made a move to expand its medication delivery business by acquiring Baxa, a closely held maker of pharmacy products used to prepare and administer fluid drugs. Baxter will pay $380 million in cash to acquire Englewood, Colo.-based Baxa, which posted $157 million in 2010 sales. Founded in 1975, Baxa still sells its first product, an oral syringe, but also manufactures automated compounding devices used in pharmacies, as well as dose preparation systems for intravenous and oral drug delivery. Baxa is thought to have about a 65% share of the automated compounding device market, placing it ahead of the larger but more diversified Baxter, which also has a bioscience division and significant sales from renal health products. Baxter’s medication delivery division, which includes a variety of pre-mixed drugs, syringes, drug reconstitution systems, infusion pumps, and nutrition products, brought in $4.8 billion in 2010 sales, about three-eighths of its $12.8 billion in overall sales. Baxter has since merged its medication delivery and renal businesses into a single unit; the company also bought irregular heartbeat drug developer Prism Pharmaceuticals for $170 million up-front, plus contingent payments worth up to $168 million, earlier this year. Analysts regarded the Baxa deal as sensibly-priced and low-risk. – Paul Bonanos and Zach Miners

Par Pharmaceuticals/Anchen: The earthquake and impending storm didn't stop Par from making s.its second acquisition this year: the $410 million purchase of privately-held generic drug maker Anchen Pharmaceutical. The latest acquisition, announced August 24, is significantly larger -- and thus, more important -- than the company's May purchase of Edict Pharmaceuticals for $37.6 million. Chairman and CEO Patrick LePore said during a same-day conference call that the Anchen buy would be immediately accretive to earnings, expand the Woodcliff Lake, N.J., company's R&D capacity and nearly double its pipeline of ANDAs awaiting FDA approval. The company, which has both a generics and a proprietary drug business unit, called Strativa, has been focused on topping up its generics portfolio, which generates 80% of its total sales. Through the deal, Par acquires 218 Anchen employees, including about 70 R&D staff, greater expertise in extended release technology, and manufacturing capabilities in southern California. Anchen also brings with it five marketed products that are expected to generate about $125 million in gross revenues this year, including generic versions of GlaxoSmithKline's antidepressant Wellbutrin XL and Bayer's Cipro. Par had $307 million in cash as of June 30, 2011, and plans to finance the acquisition with cash and a $350 million loan.--Joseph Haas

Sanofi/Universal Medicare: After rumors started to circulate early in the week that Sanofi was eyeing acquisitions in India, came Wednesday's news that the French pharma's subsidiary, Aventis Pharma Ltd., will purchase the over-the-counter drug biz of Mumbai-based Universal Medicare. The final purchase price was undisclosed but The Indian Express reports the take-out could cost around $110 million based on discussions with undisclosed sources. The deal gives Sanofi, which has been a nominal player in the Indian OTC space, around 30 brands with estimated annual sales of around one billion rupees. It's no secret big pharmas have been moving aggressively into high growth emerging markets, especially India and China, as sales of key drugs in emerged arenas like Europe and the U.S. stall due to patent expiries. Even as companies eventually look to sell their expensive, on patent medicines in these markets, much of the initial effort has been on creating a presence via a stable of more affordable products aimed directly at consumers. Sanofi has been among the most aggressive of the big drug makers in its pursuit of local EM players (it's recent hunt for Genzyme not withstanding). This latest bid doesn't eclipse its 2009 take-out of the Indian vaccine player Shanta Biotechnics, which cost the French pharma an estimated $784 million. But hopefully the revenue pay back will be better. Shanta hasn't turned out to be such a great deal for Sanofi, given the vaccine company's manufacturing woes.--EL

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