The FDA has officially denied AstraZeneca's petition to hold off generic versions of its antipsychotic drug Seroquel. The agency turned down AZ's ($AZN) request that it withhold final approval of any knockoff version that didn't bear the same safety warnings as the branded drug. Seroquel is expected to face generic competition after the company's pediatric exclusivity expires later this month.
Credit AstraZeneca for trying: Seroquel is a multibillion-dollar drug, and watching those sales erode will be painful for the drugmaker. Indeed, the FDA's decision only underscores how needy AstraZeneca soon will be. The company has announced another big round of cost cuts, but cutting can't continue forever. Analysts are expecting the company to go on an acquisition spree, to make up for the fact that its internal pipeline has offered up several disappointments lately.
And apparently, the company has the same idea. Research chief Martin Mackay told Reuters that AZ is "actively talking to a number of companies," both biotech prospects and "peer-to-peer" opportunities. "I will be disappointed if we do not do some deals this year that the market will be pleased by," Mackay said.
Bernstein's Tim Anderson listed a few prospects, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reports: Amylin Pharmaceuticals ($AMLN), which recently won approval for its long-lasting version of the diabetes drug Byetta, a deal that could run $4.5 billion. Shire, the growing U.K. drugmaker, a much bigger deal at $30 billion. Or Abbott Laboratories' ($ABT) soon-to-be-split-off drug business at $52 billion. But he figures that sub-$10 billion deals are most likely.
That would be Mackay's opinion, too. "We are looking at some in the low billions (of dollars) ... with deals of that size, we can do them sequentially and build that way," Mackay told Reuters. "We know one deal won't be the answer in itself." And CEO David Brennan (photo) has been unequivocal in his opposition to a major merger. A series of 5-6 deals, as investor Dan Mahoney of Polar Capital suggests to Reuters? We'll have to wait and see.