After Xiidra deal with Bausch, Novartis divests Indian eye care brands to J.B. Pharma for $116M

Last year, reports surfaced that Novartis—hot off the heels of a planned restructuring and spinoff of generics giant Sandoz—was further weighing a sale for its ophthalmology business.

Now, after a sizable sale to Bausch + Lomb this summer, the Swiss pharma is divesting certain Indian eye care products, too.

In a deal worth around $116 million, Novartis is handing over a portfolio of “select ophthalmology brands” to Mumbai’s J.B. Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals. The trade is expected to go into effect in January 2027, J.B. Pharma said in an exchange filing (PDF).

In the meantime, J.B. Pharma’s board has approved a promotion and distribution pact with Novartis for the same clutch of ophthalmology drugs for a three-year period starting this month. That portion of the deal is worth an additional 125 core rupees (about $15 million).

J.B. Pharma says it will offer employment to any impacted Novartis staffers working on the select eye brands.

The Times of India first reported Novartis’ sales plan last week before the deal was officially confirmed by J.B. Pharma on Tuesday.

According to J.B. Pharma, ophthalmology is one of the fastest-growing therapeutic sectors in the Indian pharmaceutical market. The deal is poised to “catapult” J.B. Pharma into the realm of other leading eye care players in the country, the company explained.

Last November, Bloomberg reported that Novartis was weighing sales for its ophthalmology and respiratory disease businesses, which fall outside the five core therapeutic areas CEO Vas Narasimhan is targeting for the future of the company.

Any potential deals were expected to take place in 2023, following the separation of generics and biosimilars outfit Sandoz.

That prediction proved true in late June, when Novartis revealed it would sell its dry eye disease drop Xiidra to eye health specialist Bausch + Lomb in a deal worth up to $2.5 billion.

Bausch + Lomb agreed to pay $1.75 billion upfront and milestone payments of up to $750 million. Bausch will also take over Novartis’ libvatrep, which is currently being studied in chronic ocular surface pain, and the rights to AceStream, an investigational device that could potentially facilitate precise dosing and delivery of some topical eye medications. Bausch also gets preclinical asset OJL332, a TRPV1 antagonist.

Moving forward, Novartis is prioritizing cardiovascular diseases, immunology, neuroscience, solid tumors and hematology.