Alcon eyes $770m takeover of ophthalmology specialist Aerie

Swiss eyecare firm Alcon has made a move to boost its position in ophthalmological medicines with a $15.25 per share offer to buy Aerie Pharmaceuticals in a transaction that values the US company at around $770 million.

If completed, the deal will add two commercial products to Alcon’s range – glaucoma therapies Rocklatan (netarsudil/latanoprost) and Rhopressa (netarsudil) – as well as a pipeline of clinical and preclinical drug candidates currently headed by AR-15512, in phase 3 for dry eye disease.

Rocklatan and Rhopressa brought in sales of around $112 million in 2021, up a third on the prior year, and according to Aerie, should reach $130-$140 million this year.

Aerie has also said it thinks TRPM8 receptor agonist AR-15512 has the potential to become a best-in-class agent for patients with dry eye disease, working to increase the production of tears as well as achieving a cooling sensation across the ocular surface to provide symptomatic relief.

The company is set to start the final phase 3 trial (COMET-4) of AR-15512 before the end of the year, and is also planning to file for approval to start trials of AR-14034, an implantable formulation of  tyrosine kinase inhibitor axitinib being developed as a treatment for age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Alcon was spun out of former parent Novartis in 2019, and since then, has been steadily building its ophthalmic medicine range with a series of bolt-on deals, including a $60 million upfront agreement in March to buy two loteprednol etabonate-based products for dye eye and pain/inflammation following ocular surgery from Kala Pharma.

Last year it also acquired Ivantis, a specialist in products used in eye surgery, for $475 million upfront, and licensed US commercial rights to Novartis’ glaucoma eyedrop product Simbrinza (brinzolamide/brimonidine tartrate) for $355 million.

Alcon said the Aerie deal is another example of its strategy to expand in the ophthalmic pharmaceutical eye drop space.

“Aerie is a natural fit with on-market and pipeline products, and R&D capabilities that offer the infrastructure needed to expand our ophthalmic pharmaceutical presence,” commented Alcon’s chief executive David Endicott.

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