Valeant buys stake in AZ’s psoriasis antibody

Valeant’s policy of growth by acquisition shows no signs of slowing down, with the Canadian firm agreeing a $345 million deal to buy a stake in AstraZeneca’s (AZ) psoriasis candidate brodalumab.

AZ said the partnership with ‘an expert in dermatology’ will help accelerate the development of brodalumab, which is due to be submitted for approval for moderate-to-severe psoriasis before the end of the year.

The UK pharma major gets an upfront payment $100 million for commercialisation rights to the interleukin-17 inhibitor in all markets outside Japan – where the drug is owned by Kyowa Hakko Kirin – along with $170 million and $175 million, respectively, in development and sales milestones. If approved, AZ and Valeant will share profits from the product.

Analysts suggested the deal was a sensible move for AZ, as dermatology does not feature among its growth platforms and Valeant has acquired a significant chunk of that market thanks to earlier acquisitions.

Last year, the Canadian firm bought PreCision Dermatology for $475 million as well as a portfolio of skin and other speciality pharma products from Valeo Pharma, having previously snapped up Obagi in 2013, Medicis in 2012 and Sanofi’s Dermik unit in 2011, among other dermatology deals.

The agreement with AZ also comes as optimism over the prospects for brodalumab in psoriasis has been dented by Amgen’s recent decision to hand back to AZ its share of the rights to the drug on the back of data linking it to suicidal thoughts.

There is as yet no suggestion, however, that suicidal ideation is a class effect, and other IL-17 inhibitors seem to be progressing along the development pathway on track. However, Amgen said at the time it was worried brodalumab, which it had previously tipped as a future blockbuster, could be compromised by ‘restrictive labelling’.

Novartis’ Cosentyx (secukinumab) became the first drug in the class to be approved for marketing earlier this year, while Eli Lilly is nearing the market with its ixekizumab candidate.

Meanwhile, IL-23 inhibitors such as Merck & Co/Sun Pharma’s tildrakizumab (MK-3222) and Johnson & Johnson’s guselkumab are also in late-stage development for psoriasis, while fierce competition is also expected from Celgene’s new oral psoriasis therapy Otezla (apremilast).

Valeant chief executive Michael Pearson seems convinced that brodalumab can be a major competitor in the category, however, saying today that the drug “is potentially the most efficacious therapy yet for moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis.”

Brodalumab is also in clinical trials for other indications including psoriatic arthritis, and axial spondyloarthritis.

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