Novartis eyes $5bn The Medicines Company acquisition – reports

Novartis is leading a group of companies that are considering buying US pharma The Medicines Company searching for a deal that could expand its pipeline of cardiac medicines, according to press reports.

While Novartis has had some notable successes in getting new drugs approved, analysts think it needs to buy in more new medicines to boost revenues as several of its moneyspinning drugs are nearing the end of their patent lives.

According to Bloomberg, banking sources said Novartis is looking for a $5 billion acquisition in the US, and is in takeover talks after doing due diligence work on the US pharma.

This immediately led to press speculation linking the Swiss pharma with The Medicines Company along with other potential buyers, which looks like a perfect strategic fit for Novartis.

CEO Vas Narasimhan has said Novartis is looking to buy companies worth up to $10 billion, equivalent to around 5% of its market capitalisation.

Based in New Jersey, The Medicines Company’s lead asset would also be a tempting target for Novartis: a cholesterol-lowering drug that was showcased at the American Heart Association congress over the weekend.

Inclisiran, which is being developed in a licensing deal with Alnylam, is seen as a competitor to PCSK9 antibodies from Amgen and Sanofi, but works in a different way.

It works by silencing the RNA coding for the PCSK9 protein, that has the knock-on effect of reducing cholesterol levels.

While Amgen and Sanofi’s Repatha and Praluent have disappointed in terms of sales, inclisiran could have the edge if approved after trial data showed comparable effectiveness and a more convenient subcutaneous administration method.

Novartis is still a major player in cardiology thanks to its heart failure drug Entresto, but as reported by pharmaphorum this week Merck & Co and Bayer could challenge the blockbuster drug with their jointly-developed vericiguat.

The Swiss pharma’s other big cardiology drug Diovan, approved for hypertension, went off patent in the US in 2012.

There are other fading stars in Novartis’ approved drugs portfolio too – the big-selling MS drug Gilenya and ophthalmology drug Lucentis could be threatened by generics or biosimilars in the coming years.

Narasimhan has also struck several other deals of around this size, such as the $5.3 billion acquisition of Takeda’s dry-eye drug Xiidra, sold off to satisfy competition regulators after its big merger with Shire.

He also bought US biotech Endocyte last year for $2.1 billion, and France’s Advanced Accelerator Applications for $3.9 billion to bring in oncology medicines targeting cancer with radioactive isotopes.

Neither company has commented publicly on the reports.

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