AstraZeneca Purges Two Respiratory Medicines in Big Day for Covis

AstraZeneca_Bodo Marks/picture alliance via Getty

Bodo Marks/picture alliance via Getty

AstraZeneca’s respiratory portfolio is a little lighter as the British-Swiss pharmaceutical behemoth announced the offloading of two chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD drugs) to fellow Swiss player Covis Pharma Group for $270 million.

The agreement, announced November 1, involves Eklira (marketed as Tudorza in the U.S.) and Duaklir (marketed as Brimica® in some countries). The acquisition of the medicines – which netted AstraZeneca $143 million in the geographies covered under the agreement – provides a significant boost to Covis’s respiratory portfolio. COPD was the third leading cause of death worldwide in 2019, so the need and market are certainly there.

“This acquisition represents a highly strategic and synergistic transaction with AstraZeneca, enabling Covis to offer a full continuum of best-in-class therapies for allergic rhinitis, asthma and COPD,” said Covis Chief Executive Officer Michael Porter in a statement. “As a result of the acquisition, Covis is firmly placed as one of the top 10 respiratory companies in the world.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Covis will pay AstraZeneca $270 million upon completion of the deal, which is expected to close in quick order prior to the end of Q4 2021. In addition, Covis will be responsible for ongoing development costs related to the medicines. Eklira is a long-acting muscarinic antagonist (LAMA), while Duaklir is a combination therapy that contains both a LAMA and a long-acting beta2-agonist. Both are presented as a dry powder for inhalation and delivered through a breath-actuated multi-dose dry powder inhaler called Genuair (Pressair in the US).

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot has made no secret of his intention to steer the company's R&D pipeline to a predominantly oncology focus, and Covis is a repeat partner. In 2018, AstraZeneca divested three Asthma and Rhinitis Drugs to Covis for $350 Million. In this instance, the large multinational sold rights to Alvesco (ciclesonide), which is intended to treat persistent asthma, and Omnaris and Zetonna (ciclesonide), which are aimed at treating nasal symptoms associated with rhinitis.

In April, Covis announced disappointing results from a Phase III trial evaluating Alvesco in COVID-19. The results were deemed not statistically significant, though Dr. Michael Blaiss, MD, clinical professor at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University in Augusta, Georgia and a member of the steering committee for the trial said that “further studies may want to look at whether this treatment may prevent or lessen post-acute COVID-19 syndrome.”

AstraZeneca also said the deal will enable a sharpening of its focus on priority medicines in the respiratory and immunology space. The company went on to state in its official press release that the agreement “will ensure continued patient access to these established medicines.”

With European headquarters in Zug as well as Amsterdam, Covis is a global specialty pharma company that markets therapeutics for patients with life-threatening conditions and chronic illnesses including asthma, COPD and anemia.

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