AstraZeneca hopes for fish oil pill boost

Drugs giant AstraZeneca has bought a recently-floated American company in a deal worth up to $443 million (£293m) in order to gain access to a novel fish-oil-based medicine.

The FTSE 100 firm said it had agreed to acquire Princeton-based Omthera Pharmaceuticals. Its main product, Epanova, is a cardiovascular drug, still under development, for the potential treatment of patients with very high levels of a blood fat known as triglycerides.

AstraZeneca plans to test what is described as “a novel omega-3 free fatty acid composition” in combination with its own top-selling cholesterol-fighter Crestor to provide a convenient fixed-dose treatment for heart patients.

Omthera only completed its initial public offering on 16 April, at $8 a share. AstraZeneca will pay $12.70 a share up front, an 88 per cent premium on Friday’s closing price, valuing the business at about $260m after allowing for cash balances of $63m.

The British firm will shell out an extra $120m if specified milestones related to Epanova are achieved, taking the total potential acquisition cost to about $443m.


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The acquisition underscores a drive by new chief executive Pascal Soriot to revive AstraZeneca’s fortunes through a series of bolt-on deals as its old best sellers lose their patent protection.

Soriot said: “The number of people with elevated triglyceride levels is rising rapidly across the world, due in part to the increasing prevalence of obesity and diabetes. There is a clear need for effective and convenient alternatives to some of the existing treatments.

“This is an exciting acquisition that clearly complements our existing portfolio in cardiovascular and metabolic disease, one of our core therapy areas.”