AbbVie revives Allergan's abandoned women's health sale, eyeing $5B deal

What’s AbbVie counting on for growth as Humira’s blockbuster sales siphon off to biosimilar rivals? Apparently not the women’s health drugs it bought along with Allergan. 

The Illinois drug giant has resurrected a sale Allergan had tried and nixed before the companies' $63 billion merger, Reuters reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.

The drugs generated about $500 million in 12-month operating profits, and the company’s now in talks to collect 10 times that amount, or $5 billion, the sources said.

Private equity firm and regular pharma buyer CVC Capital Partners is said to be interested in the assets, which could fit into its portfolio company Theramex, a Teva women’s health spinoff the investment shop took under its wing in 2018.

Allergan originally put up the portfolio—along with its infectious disease division—for sale in 2018 amid a strategic review launched in response to investor pressure. But the company suddenly abandoned that plan in early 2019, weeks before AbbVie first approached the Botox maker to discuss a possible transaction.

RELATED: Allergan nixes women's health sale in wake of Esmya rejection

Allergan had viewed its women’s health portfolio, led by birth control pill Lo Loestrin, as peripheral to its businesses in medical aesthetics, the central nervous system, eye care and gastroenterology.

Women’s health was among the worst hit therapeutic areas for biopharma companies during the pandemic. In 2020, AbbVie’s women’s health revenue dropped 13.3% on an operational basis to $673 million. In 2019, Allergan’s women’s health franchise raked in $896 million after 13.8% year-over-year growth.

Before the Allergan combination, AbbVie had its own women’s health med, elagolix, sold under the brand Orilissa in endometriosis. Last year, the drug won an FDA nod to treat heavy menstrual bleeding due to uterine fibroids under a different commercial name, Oriahnn. The drug’s 2020 sales checked in at $125 million, up 34.6% year over year. According to Reuters, it’s not included in the ongoing divestment discussion.

RELATED: AbbVie's immunology newbies Skyrizi and Rinvoq pick up the slack from declining Humira, but safety questions dog execs

There’s also Lupron, an old AbbVie hormone therapy that’s been allowed to treat endometriosis and fibroids in women as well as prostate cancer in men. AbbVie doesn’t count the med in its women’s health portfolio in financial reports.

Aside from the businesses it picked up with Allergan, AbbVie’s focus has been on immunology and blood cancer. The previous franchise is led by Humira, with Skyrizi and Rinvoq rising in importance as Humira’s slated to face biosimilars in 2023. In blood cancer, BTK inhibitor Imbruvica and Bcl-2 inhibitor Venclexta were both growing by double digits in 2020.

Women’s health drugs have been regularly targeted in pharma divestments. Besides Teva and Allergan, Merck & Co. recently wrapped its women’s health and biosimilar businesses into a new company and is in the process of spinning it off as Organon. Pfizer was said to be weighing a $2 billion women’s health sale in 2018.