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AZ boosts cardio-renal portfolio with $2.7bn ZS Pharma buy

Acquires rights to potential best-in-class treatment for hyperkalaemia
AZ

AstraZeneca has agreed a deal to take over ZS Pharma, adding a drug under review by the FDA for elevated serum sodium (hyperkalaemia).

AZ has offered $90-per-share in cash for ZS Pharma, 42% premium on the firm's share price yesterday, and has the backing of the US firm's board which sets the $2.7bn transaction on course to complete before the end of the year.

Buying ZS Pharma gives the UK pharma major rights to potassium-binding compound ZS-9 (sodium zirconium cyclosilicate), which it describes as a "potential best-in-class" treatment for hyperkalaemia with sales potential in excess of $1bn a year.

Elevated serum potassium is associated with diseases such as chronic heart failure (CHF) and chronic kidney disease (CKD), and can lead to potentially fatal abnormal heart rhythms.

ZS Pharma had previously been reported to be in preliminary discussions with Swiss speciality drugmaker Actelion, but the US company has been won over by AZ's offer, which will place ZS-9 alongside drugs such as roxadustat, which is currently in phase III testing for anaemia associated with CKD.

AZ chief executive Pascal Soriot said the risk of hyperkalaemia "is underappreciated and prevalence is increasing", adding that the acquisition "complements our strategic focus on cardiovascular and metabolic disease."

ZS-9 is already under review by the US FDA, with a verdict due by May 26, 2016. If approved the drug will give AZ another new product as it faces the impact of the loss of patent protection for its cholesterol-lowering drug Crestor (rosuvastatin) in the US.

The UK firm has just announced its third-quarter results, which saw sales slip 10% to $5.9bn mainly as a result of generic competition to gastrointestinal drug Nexium (esomeprazole) which fell 30% to $641m.

On the plus side, AZ reported a 34% leap in sales of antiplatelet drug Brilinta (ticagrelor) to $170m, thanks in part to FDA approval for longer-term use in heart attack patients, taking it another step forward towards the company's ambitious sales target for the drug of $3.5bn by 2023.

Article by
Phil Taylor

6th November 2015

From: Sales

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