No M&A? No problem, Actelion says as it rolls out $160K-plus Uptravi

Actelion ($ATLN) predicts it'll have a difficult time competing against its rivals for M&A targets going forward. But never fear. The company will have plenty to plow into its own development work thanks to its hefty price tag on new pulmonary arterial hypertension med Uptravi, execs said Tuesday.

Actelion CEO Jean-Paul Clozel

Uptravi--which won FDA approval last month and launched earlier this week--will bear a price tag of between $160,000 and $170,000, the Swiss biotech's COO, Otto Schwarz, told analysts on a call. And "the revenues generated will enable us to fuel our research and development efforts outside the pulmonary arterial hypertension franchise and to transform our company," CEO Jean-Paul Clozel said, as quoted by Reuters.

Those revenues could top $1 billion per year if all goes as planned. The way Schwarz sees it, Uptravi will compete for patients in the intermediate stages of the disease, creating a bridge in Actelion's portfolio between baseline therapy Opsumit and late-stage treatment Veletri. That patient pool currently stands at about 3,800 people in the U.S., he noted--and it's growing.

"There is an influx of new patients in this segment," Schwarz said.

And while Uptravi's list price is lofty, it's lower than its rivals'--including that of United Therapeutics' ($UTHR) Tyvaso. "Uptravi is priced--and this is why I think it is responsible pricing--below all inhaled prostacyclin therapies currently on the market," Schwarz said, noting that that made payers unlikely to put up a fight.

That's a good thing for Actelion, which plans to rely on its own products for growth going forward. In the M&A arena, it's up against companies with "deeper pockets," Clozel pointed out.

And he knows that firsthand. In November, it got beaten to the finish line for ZS Pharma by pharma giant AstraZeneca ($AZN), which inked a $2.7 billion deal for the California drugmaker.

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