AstraZeneca closes mega $39B Alexion buyout despite antitrust fears, making a splash in rare diseases

Close-up of handshake between person in suit and person in business shirt.
AstraZeneca's mega $39 billion takeover of Alexion Pharmaceuticals has come to a close, the company announced. (Getty Images/FS-Stock)

AstraZeneca’s mega $39 billion takeover of Alexion Pharmaceuticals has come to a close, delivering the British pharma a lucrative portfolio of immunology medicines and a towering presence in rare diseases. 

AZ on Wednesday announced the completion of its Alexion acquisition, a week after securing a pivotal nod from the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Industry watchers were concerned that the deal, the largest announced among pharma players last year, could become a target for an emboldened, Democrat-led Federal Trade Commission (FTC). But those fears were eventually wiped away as AZ secured blessings from the U.S. in April, then from the EU in early July.

The now-completed buyout stands as a key stepping stone for AstraZeneca as it targets an ambitious sales goal of $40 billion in just four years, up from the roughly $26 billion it made in 2020. 

With the deal's closing will come an immediate $6 billion bump to AstraZeneca’s top line as the drugmaker secures two of Alexion’s blockbuster C5 inhibitor franchises, Soliris and Ultomiris. 

RELATED: Alexion's new blockbuster Ultomiris keeps gaining steam as $39B AstraZeneca deal looms

Ultomiris, the follow up to Alexion's paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) drug Soliris, has already cashed in $701 million in sales at 2021's midpoint, Alexion said in a recent securities filing, a 48% increase over the same period in 2020. Meanwhile, Soliris held its own and posted first-half sales of $2.10 billion, a 5% increase. 

But AZ is on the hunt for more than just a short-term revenue grab. The company expects Alexion’s drugs to grow 9% per year through 2023, in line with Alexion’s predictions. To SVB Leerink's Geoffrey Porges, there could be “room for higher revenue from Alexion’s portfolio under AZ’s wing.” 

Now that AZ’s deal is done, the drugmaker will create a new group focused on rare diseases headquartered in Boston. 

AZ’s CFO Marc Dunoyer will step into the rare disease unit's top job while retiring from the drugmaker’s board. Meanwhile, Alexion’s current finance exec Aradhana Sarin will step into Dunoyer’s spot.

RELATED: Alexion's Ultomiris notches myasthenia gravis win amid quest for 3rd Soliris use

Moving forward, AZ will use Alexion’s complement-biology platform “across areas of AstraZeneca’s broader early stage pipeline,” as well as to extend its rare disease medicines to countries where AZ already has a strong presence, Dunoyer said in a statement Wednesday. 

AZ has previously expressed hope that Alexion’s C5 inhibitors, so far relegated to rare diseases, could be used for more common ailments in oncology, neurology and respiratory. But for now, Alexion is working to score additional Ultomiris indications ahead of Soliris’ expected loss of exclusivity in 2025. 

The treatment, already approved to treat PNH and atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome, just notched a trial win toward its approval bid in generalized myasthenia gravis (gMG) as well.