AstraZeneca PLC Eases Its Migraine With $302 Million Sale

Published: Jun 07, 2017

AstraZeneca PLC Eases Its Migraine With $302 Million Sale June 7, 2017
By Alex Keown, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

LONDON – AstraZeneca continues to divest itself of some older drugs. Today the company announced it was selling the global rights (excluding Japan) to its migraine treatment Zomig to Germany-based Grünenthal for $302 million.

In its announcement, AstraZeneca said treatments for migraines and cluster headaches are not areas in which AstraZeneca is strategically focused. Grünenthal, AstraZeneca said, is the right choice to acquire the drug because of its focus on developing pain treatment therapies.

“Grünenthal is an established partner with expertise in the treatment of pain. It is well placed to ensure patients continue to benefit from Zomig, and to extend the commercial potential of the medicine through its dedicated salesforce,” Mark Mallon, AstraZeneca’s head of global product and portfolio strategy, said in a statement.

AstraZeneca has been on a quest to meet a revenue goal of $45 billion in sales by 2023. The company has been eying its respiratory and oncology pipelines as potential financial tent-poles.

Along the way to that goal though, AstraZeneca has been in the process of selling off several drugs, particularly as many of them face revenue challenges from the loss of patents or rival generic drugs. In May, AstraZeneca sold the European commercial rights to its beta-blocker heart drug Seloken and the associated fixed-dose combination Logimax to Italy-based Recordati S.p.A. for $300 million.

Earlier this year, AstraZeneca laid out how many of its drugs are losing revenue due to competition. For example, AstraZeneca said sales of schizophrenia drug Seroquel XR were down 83 percent in the United States and 37 percent in Europe. COPD drug Symbicort saw a decline of 21 percent in the United States, which AstraZeneca said was in line with predictions for 2017.

For Grünenthal, the acquisition of Zomig fits nicely with its pipeline, which includes its lead candidate neridronic acid, an investigational aminobisphosphonate currently in Phase III development for treatment of complex regional pain syndrome, formerly known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. Grünenthal is active in about 30 different pain segments. The company is developing treatments for pain associated with Parkinson’s disease and arthritis. Grünenthal also has a therapy for treatment of bladder pain syndrome. In an interview with BioSpace earlier this year, Baertschi said the company is looking to build beyond pain and enter into other related areas, such as developing therapies for inflammation and rheumatoid arthritis.

Gabriel Baertschi, chief executive officer of Grünenthal, said in a statement that migraine treatments are one of the areas the company has not delved into.

“Migraine is a very debilitating disease with more than 75 million people worldwide suffering from attacks that can lead to sensitivity to light or sound, to nausea or even vomiting,” Baertschi said in a statement. “This is an important step to reach our ambition to become a €2 billion company by 2022. It will also support our efforts to bring four to five innovative products to market in the same timeframe.”

Under terms of the deal, AstraZeneca will continue to manufacture Zomig during a transition period. While Grünenthal will have rights to Zomig in the United States, Impax Pharmaceuticals will continue to license the product for sale in America.

Zomig generated $96 million in 2016 outside of Japan. Those sales figures were not disclosed. The deal is expected to complete in the second quarter of 2017.

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