AstraZeneca Sells its Cholesterol Drug to German Pharma

by Daniel Ojeda
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On December 1st, AstraZeneca announced it would sell the rights of Crestor (Rosuvastatin) in over 30 countries in Europe to the privately-owned German company, Grünenthal GmbH (Grünenthal) for an upfront payment of $320 million. AstraZeneca will continue to manufacture the drug and supply it to Grünenthal during the transition period. It will also continue to sell the drug in the United Kingdom, Spain, North America, Japan, China, and other emerging markets.

Crestor is a lipid-lowering medicine approved in over 100 countries to treat dyslipidemia and hypercholesterolemia. These conditions are characterized by abnormal levels of low-density lipoprotein, “bad” cholesterol in the blood, which increased the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Crestor interferes with cholesterol production in the liver and promotes the uptake and breakdown of cholesterol in the blood.

In 2015, AstraZeneca reported that Crestor’s worldwide sales resulted in over $5 billion, and $916 million came from sales in Europe. However, the revenue decreased to $136 million in Europe, excluding the UK and Spain. This decline in profitability was due to the expiration of its patents and the subsequent approval of generic versions in 2016.


Deal Specifications

As part of the deal with Grünenthal, AstraZeneca will receive an upfront payment of $320 million and up to $30 million upon milestone achievements. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021, but AstraZeneca will continue to manufacture Crestor during the transition, as Grünenthal takes over the majority of production and packaging by 2025. AstraZeneca said that Crestor’s sale would not affect its financial guidance for 2020, and the proceeds will be used for general corporate proposes.

Ruud Dobber, Executive Vice President, BioPharmaceuticals Business Unit, AstraZeneca, said: “This agreement supports the management of our mature medicines to enable reinvestment into the pipeline and bringing new, innovative treatments to patients. Grünenthal previously acquired the rights to several established AstraZeneca medicines and is well placed to ensure continued access to Crestor for patients across Europe.”

For Grünenthal, this deal is the latest on a series of acquisitions and partnerships to strengthen its financial performance. Since 2016, Grünenthal has spent more than $1.7 billion in similar deals. These include the global rights to the neuropathic pain medicine, Qutenza, the rights outside Japan for the migraine medication, Zomig, the rights outside Japan and the US for the arthritis medication, Vimovo, and the European rights for the heartburn medication, Nexium.

“Cardiovascular diseases are among the most burdensome diseases in Europe, and we are excited to include such a well-established product in our portfolio,” said Gabriel Baertschi, Grünenthal CEO. “The acquisition of European rights to CRESTORTM is yet another proof of our strategy aiming at strengthening Grünenthal’s financial performance and bringing strong brands to patients across our markets.”

By Daniel Ojeda, Ph.D.

Related Article: Regeneron’s Antibody Therapy Reduces LDL Cholesterol in Hypercholesterolemia Patients



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