Pfizer to buy Anacor and potential eczema drug for $5.2 bn

Pfizer has said it is to buy US pharma company Anacor for around $5.2 billion, in a move that will boost its presence in the dermatology market with a potential new treatment for eczema.

Following the collapse of its $160 billion mega-merger with Allergan earlier this year, Pfizer has adopted a “business as usual” approach, with it (and Allergan) not pausing before looking for further mergers and acquisitions.

However while the Allergan merger deal centered on the tax inversion which would have allowed Pfizer to avoid paying high US corporate taxes, this avenue has now been more or less closed off.  This means new M&A targets will have to make sense in terms of pipelines and profitability arising out of synergies and savings.

Anacor’s flagship asset is crisaborole, a differentiated non-steroidal topical PDE4 inhibitor with anti-inflammatory properties, under review by the US Food and Drug Administration for mild-to-moderate atopic dermatitis, commonly referred to as eczema. Analysts from Wedbush last year forecast sales of $2 billion by 2020, assuming a 2017 launch.

The boards of Pfizer and Anacor companies have agreed to the merger at $99.25 per share in cash.

Albert Bourla, group president of Pfizer’s Global Innovative Pharma and Global Vaccines, Oncology and Consumer Healthcare business, noted there are few treatments available for eczema and that the drug could address a significant unmet need if approved.

Bourla said there was “compelling clinical data” for crisaborole in eczema, adding it has “the potential to be an important first-line treatment option.”

Bourla added that the drug will fit well within Pfizer’s innovative business, one of the three main parts to the company’s structure – the others being vaccines, oncology and consumer health, and established pharma products, such as generics or those about to lose exclusivity.

Pfizer already has expertise in inflammation and immunology through its Enbrel (etanercept) and Xeljanz (tofacitinib).  Pfizer is also expected to follow through on long-mooted plans to spin off its ‘established products’ division (generics and biosimilars), and the Anacor acquisition will help it bulk up its R&D-based division to stand alone.

Closure of the deal is expected in the third quarter of this year, as long as it clears US antitrust regulations and a tender involving a majority of outstanding common shares is successful.

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