AstraZeneca offloads headache drug Zomig to Grünenthal to raise $300M cash

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AstraZeneca has sold migraine drug Zomig to Germany’s Grünenthal as the U.K. company continues its cash raising ventures.

AstraZeneca this week had some positive news to announce at ASCO about its PARP Lynparza for treating breast cancer, but all in all, the U.K. company continues to struggle and so will sell yet another asset to raise cash while CEO Pascal Soriot works to right the ship.

The U.K drugmaker today said that it has a deal to sell Germany’s Grünenthal rights to its migraine treatment Zomig for all markets outside of Japan. AZ will get $200 million when the deal is done and up to $102 million in additional payments if targets are hit.

The arrangement includes rights to the drug in the U.S. where it has been licensed to Impax Pharmaceuticals since 2012. Impax will continue to market Zomig in the U.S. AstraZeneca will continue to manufacture and supply it, during the transition.  

Grünenthal’s experience with pain drugs puts them in a good position to serve patients that rely on the headache med, Mark Mallon, executive VP of global product & portfolio Strategy at AstraZeneca said in a statement.

AstraZeneca has been on this asset selling path pretty much non-stop since it foiled Pfizer’s buyout attempt in 2014 and Soriot found that patent challenges would make it too hard to finance his pipeline aspirations from cash flow alone The drugmaker reported revenues off about 5% in 2016 and has forecast a slide this year in the mid single digits as generics eat away sales of high-cholesterol blockbuster Crestor.

RELATED: Floundering AZ's sales tanked in Q4—and that won't change this year, execs warn

Critics have questioned the practice, saying the company can’t divest its way to growth, but the sales have continued, including a lineup of antibiotics, which went to Pfizer for $1.5 billion; and an anesthetics portfolio that South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare took on for $770 million. Just last month, AstraZeneca agreed to sell off European rights to heart med Seloken and related combo Logimax to Italy’s Recordati in exchange for $300 million.

It has not always been medications that it have sold. Last year it put its U.S. campus in Delaware on the block. On top of that AZ is in the midst of a $1.1 billion cost-cutting phase, which claimed 700 U.S. jobs late last year on top of 1,600 contractors already let go.

RELATED: Pharma’s bad jobs week gets worse: AstraZeneca to cut 700 U.S. positions

That is not to say that AstraZeneca has not had some positive news of late. Last month AZ won an approval in bladder cancer for its closely followed immuno-oncology treatment Imfinzi, then surprised the market with positive phase 3 lung cancer maintenance data for the drug.

RELATED: AstraZeneca's Lynparza, now in hot PARP battle, posts 42% survival win in breast cancer

Then at ASCO this week it released further results for Lynparza in breast cancer, the only PARP to report results in that area. In a phase 3 study comparing the medication with standard-of-care chemo in patients with HER2-negative breast cancer and BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, Lynparza pared down the risk of disease worsening or death by 42%.