As its oncology effort gathers steam, AstraZeneca sheds another legacy drug
On the day AstraZeneca suffered a setback after the US regulator rejected its triplet for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — it also palmed off the rights to a legacy treatment, Losec, to Germany’s Cheplapharm Arzneimittel GmbH in a deal worth $243 million upfront.
Losec contains the active ingredient omeprazole and belongs to a class of drugs called proton pump inhibitors that are engineered to work by diminishing the level of acid the stomach produces. It has a number of approved indications and is commonly prescribed for patients with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease.
Under the deal, Cheplapharm has a global license to sell the drug — and other medicines containing omeprazole marketed by AstraZeneca or its collaborators including the brands Acimax, Antra, Mepral, Mopral, Omepral, and Zoltum — apart from China, Japan, the United States, and Mexico. Cheplapharm will also give AstraZeneca sales-contingent milestones of up to $33 million in 2021 and 2022.
In 2018, Losec sales in the countries covered by the agreement were $98 million — the bulk of these sales came from emerging markets, AstraZeneca noted on Tuesday.
AstraZeneca previously divested the commercial rights to Losec and other omeprazole medicines in the United States, Japan, and Mexico, as well as the commercial rights to the over-the-counter version in France, Finland, Ireland, New Zealand, and the Netherlands, it added.
Under Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca undertook a sweeping restructuring of its R&D engine — by delineating its oncology effort from everything else. The company has made keen strides with its blockbuster franchises Lynparza and Tagrisso, and earlier this year signed a $7 billion deal to partner on trastuzumab with Daiichi Sankyo.
Meanwhile, it has been shedding its mature products. Last year, it divested rights to two assets — Nexium (another proton pump inhibitor) and Vimovo (an anti-inflammatory drug)— to Germany’s Grünenthal for a combined upfront of $815 million.