Pharma M&A volume is up, thanks to Amgen. More to come?

Amgen's ($AMGN) agreement to buy Onyx Pharmaceuticals ($ONXX) made the biggest headlines in pharma this week. It also pushed the industry's M&A stats into bragging territory. Pharmaceutical deal volume is up 15% globally, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing Dealogic--and pharma transactions account for 5.2% of all the deals made so far this year.

Of course, one big deal--and these days, $10.4 billion is quite a big deal--can sway M&A numbers considerably. Overall, the industry accounted for $83.2 billion in deals this year. That puts the 15% gap at about $10.8 billion, just $400 million more than Amgen's Onyx buy.

As the WSJ points out, a string of deals doesn't necessarily make a trend. Unlike 2009, when megamergers were the fashion--marrying Pfizer ($PFE) and Wyeth, Merck ($MRK) and Schering-Plough, Roche ($RHHBY) and Genentech--the recent pharma deals are a heterogeneous lot.

Amgen nabbed Onyx for its oncology drugs, including the newly launched Kyprolis. Michigan-based Perrigo ($PRGO) recently agreed to buy Elan ($ELN) for $8.6 billion, aiming for tax breaks from Elan's Irish domicile. Mylan ($MYL) snapped up the Indian generics maker Strides Arcolab's injectables unit Agila Specialties to build up its offerings in that field and get access to Agila's low-cost manufacturing capacity in India. And then there are AstraZeneca's ($AZN) buyouts, many of them early-stage companies, aimed at building up its ailing pipeline.

Whatever the impetus, analysts think that the pace of deals will step up over the remainder of 2013. Drugmakers are still looking to bolster revenues depressed by patent expirations, and pipelines are still sparse. As Leerink Swann's Howard Liang told the WSJ, thanks to savvy financing by developers, there are more biotech companies these days that still own their products once they hit the market. So, more biotechs with marketed products to choose from. Not to mention more biotechs with promising pipelines.

- read the WSJ piece

Special Reports: Top Biopharma M&A Deals 2012 | Top M&A Dealmakers in Biopharma