GSK, Astra among shoppers for $1B Optimer deal: Bloomberg

Drugmakers are circling Optimer Pharmaceuticals ($OPTR), the antibiotics maker that says it's considering a sale. And that includes GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), Astellas Pharma, AstraZeneca ($AZN) and Cubist Pharmaceuticals ($CBST), Bloomberg sources say, for a deal worth as much as $1 billion.

Optimer sells Dificid, an antibiotic used to fight Clostridium difficile infections, which often afflict hospital patients. So, its customers are mostly hospitals. As Bloomberg points out, Dificid could help amp up a company's hospital sales and distribution.

For drugmakers already active in that market, there's opportunity for related cost-cutting. As for Cubist, it's already Optimer's Dificid marketing partner, and it's developing its own C. diff drug that may not hit the market till 2017. And AstraZeneca is scouting all over the place for bolt-on deals to pump up its lagging sales. Analysts figure Dificid can eventually bring in $400 million a year, but so far the launch has been rather slow, with $74 million in 2012 sales.

Optimer CEO Hank McKinnell--Courtesy of Pfizer

To help weigh its options, Optimer recently tasked former Pfizer ($PFE) CEO Hank McKinnell with running the company. McKinnell had stepped into the chairman's job vacated by Michael Chang, who left last year under a conflict-of-interest cloud, and in February, took the CEO post as well. McKinnell has quite the roster of industry contacts, so he could be instrumental in finding a buyer.

But the Optimer sale process could be complicated by ongoing conflict-of-interest investigations, analysts have said. The U.S. government is also investigating the Chang affair, which involved a stock transfer from an affiliated company.

- see the Bloomberg news

Special Report: Top Biopharma M&A Deals - 2012