AZ picks up $350m after selling hypertension drugs


AstraZeneca has picked up a $350m windfall after selling off five hypertension medicines to generics specialist Atnahs Pharma.

The big UK pharma has a strategy of selling off older drugs and reinvesting the proceeds in its research pipeline, and this is just the latest in a string of such deals.

Cambridge-based AZ may also receive future sales-contingent payments of up to $40m between 2020 and 2022. The upfront payment will be reported in AstraZeneca’s financial statements in the first quarter of 2020.

The five drugs in question are Inderal (propranolol), Tenormin (atenolol), Tenoretic (atenolol, chlorthalidone fixed-dose combination), Zestril (lisinopril) and Zestoretic (lisinopril, hydrochlorothiazide fixed-dose combination).

Inderal, Tenormin and Tenoretic are beta-blockers used to treat conditions including angina, hypertension and arrhythmia.

Zestril is an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor used to treat hypertension, congestive heart failure, diabetic-related conditions and hypertensive renal disease.

Zestril may also be used to improve survival after a heart attack. Zestoretic is a fixed-dose combination of lisinopril (ACE inhibitor) and hydrochlorothiazide (diuretic) used to treat hypertension.

The deal was first announced in January and covers global commercial rights to the five drugs.

GW buys back Sativex

While AZ was selling its old drugs, another UK drugmaker GW Pharma has regained rights to its multiple sclerosis spasticity drug Sativex (nabiximols).

Bayer and GW began a marketing agreement over Sativex in 2003, granting the German pharma exclusive rights to market the drug in the UK.

In the UK, Sativex has been approved since 2010 for MS spasticity, although it has failed to show efficacy as a treatment for cancer pain in clinical trials.

Deals such as this occur when drugs have failed to meet expectations, and while Sativex was considered a trailblazer for cannabis-based medicines it was never a huge commercial success because of the poor results in cancer pain trials.

There will be a transitional period until 31 December 2020 at which point GW will take over all responsibilities for Sativex in the UK.

The companies have promised a “seamless transition”, with no changes to day to day business practices.

Stakeholders will receive a further notification when transfers of operations are expected to take place.