GSK sells drug rights back to Amgen to focus on its own launches

Amgen CEO Robert Bradway

Last April, Amgen ($AMGN) took back most of the marketing rights to osteoporosis med Prolia that it had previously granted to GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK). Now, it's taking back the rest of them--and the rights to a couple of other drugs, too.

The California biotech is reacquiring licenses to Prolia, Xgeva--a related antifracture drug for cancer patients--and colon cancer therapy Vectibix in 48 countries, Amgen said in a statement. Among them are Brazil, China, Colombia, Hong Kong, Israel, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand, which Amgen regards as "key expansion markets," CEO Robert Bradway said in a statement.

Amgen will foot undisclosed milestone payments to GSK, which netted $111 million in 2014 sales on the trio. After the transition, the meds will be padding Amgen's top line, boosting last year's sales hauls of $1.03 billion for Prolia, $1.22 billion for Xgeva and $505 million for Vectibix.

Glaxo has been holding rights to Prolia and Xgeva since 2009, and Vectibix since 2010, but as it said last April--when it agreed to return Prolia marketing duties in countries including Switzerland, Russia and Mexico--letting Amgen take them off its hands would allow it to focus on its own new launches.

The British drugmaker has plenty of those ongoing, and it needs to make them work. To help fill the void left by declining sales of respiratory behemoth Advair, the company has rolled out a slate of new respiratory treatments over the past couple of years, including COPD meds Breo and Anoro. Its most recent FDA approval came last month with a thumbs up for Nucala, green-lighted to treat patients with a form of severe asthma.

Amgen, meanwhile, can use the extra revenue from its three sellers as it shores up its defenses against biosimilars. Novartis' ($NVS) Zarxio is already working to whittle away market share from aged giant Neupogen, and the Swiss drugmaker and others are prepping future competitors to a couple of its other older blockbusters, Neulasta and Enbrel.

- read Amgen's release

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