- Swiss healthcare group Galencia will pay $1.53 billion to acquire the U.S. biotech Relypsa, maker of a recently approved drug for hyperkalemia, the companies announced Thursday.
- Galencia owns a major pharmacy network in Switzerland in addition to Vifor Pharma, a specialty drugmaker which had sought to expand its market presence in the U.S.
- Adding Relypsa will do that, but at a cost—Galencia's purchase price of $32 per share represents a nearly 60% premium to Relypsa's closing price Wednesday.
- Relypsa's Veltassa may have a clear shot at a potentially lucrative market, however. Roughly 3 million people with stage 3 or 4 chronic kidney disease have hyperkalemia in the U.S., a condition which leads to high levels of potassium in the blood.
Relypsa likely looked much more attractive to Galencia after the Food and Drug Administration rejected AstraZeneca's investigational hyperkalemia drug in late May. AstraZeneca had picked up the drug, known as ZS-9, when it bought ZS Pharma for $2.7 billion last year.
Before the rejection, AstraZeneca saw peak annual sales of ZS-9 reaching $1 billion dollars.
Although AstraZeneca said it would work with the FDA on next steps for the drug, Relypsa's Veltassa suddenly faces a much less competitive market in the near-term.
Under the terms of Galencia's acquisition, Vifor will pick up global rights to Veltassa while also bringing onboard Relypsa's specialty drug sales force.
In a statement on the deal, Galencia said adding Relypsa would "significantly enhance the commercial visibility and presence of Vifor Pharma in the key cardio-renal market in the United States." Vifor already has an approved intravenous drug to treat iron deficiency.
"The combination of Vifor Pharma and Relypsa is an important step towards achieving our goal of building a world-leading specialty pharmaceutical company focused on nephrology, cardiology and gastroenterology medicines," said Etienne Jornod, executive chairman of Galenica.
The deal also strengthens Vifor Pharma ahead of a forthcoming split by Galencia which would separate Vifor from its pharmacy network, organized as Galencia Sante. The group is expected to split sometime in 2017.
The companies anticipate the acquisition of Relypsa will close sometime in the third quarter. Relypsa stock soared on the news, closing at $31.95 or just below Galencia's purchase price.