Japan's Takeda rejigs Contrave deal with Orexigen, along with U.S. ops

Osaka-based Takeda Pharmaceutical has exited a deal with Orexigen Therapeutics ($OREX) that sold back U.S. rights to obesity drug Contrave and at the same time announced a sharpened focus for its U.S. operations. 

Takeda CEO Christophe Weber

A full Ides of March sweep saw sales for Contrave (naltrexone) in Europe, where it is labelled Mysimba, handed over to the international arm of Valeant Pharmaceutical ($VRX) and in a separate release Takeda announced a focus on inflammatory bowel disease and major depressive disorder therapies as part of new business units in the U.S.

The sweeping changes were kicked off with the news that La Jolla-based Orexigen would pay Takeda $60 million for the U.S. rights to the co-developed drug that won U.S. FDA approval in 2014.

Still, Takeda remains with a toe in the water on the drug's fortunes with a separate $15 million payment slated for the first quarter of 2017, and potential milestone payments if ambitious sales targets are met in the coming years.

The companies attempted in August of last year to overcome a series of bumbling steps after an unauthorized release of trial data by Orexigen forced a heart-risk study of the drug to be scuttled.

But a new study, which saw Orexigen bear most costs, did not appear to paper over sharp differences between the two drug makers for a drug that has lagged in sales recently along with competitor Qsymia (phentermine and topiramate extended-release) from Vivus ($VVUS).

In the March 15 conference call, Orexigen suggested the deal will free it to concentrate on its own sales strategies, while Takeda can do the same.

"We are pleased that we have the opportunity to acquire the asset which was in part made possible because of Takeda's desire to increase its investments and focus on its recently announced strategic therapeutic areas," CEO Michael Narachi said.

But shares plummeted more than 8% to below $1, and well off a peak above $8 in the past year.

In Takeda's case the deal coincided with an announcement to make "very deliberate strategic choices on where we will invest, and where we won't," Ramona Sequeira, president of Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A., said in a separate statement on March 15, adding those areas include the above mentioned inflammatory bowel disease and major depressive disorder therapies as well as gout and diabetes.

That U.S. effort by Takeda also announced new hires and in-house promotions. Those include Richard Ascroft from Eli Lilly ($LLY), as vice president, Managed Markets and Government Affairs and William "BJ" Jones from AstraZeneca ($AZN) as head of Sales and Operations, General Medicine Business Unit, according to a release.

- here's the Orexigen-Takeda release
- and the Takeda release on U.S. business reorganization