AstraZeneca pawning off rights to more drugs to keep the cash coming in

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot is back to pawning off some stuff from the back of the closet to make the monthly rent. The U.K. drugmaker this time is selling the rights to a couple of heart drugs to a Chinese company, raising $500 million while giving up what last year amounted to $246 million in revenue.

While his definition has moved around a bit, Soriot has sold or licensed a host of what he considers "non-core assets" the last several years to raise cash while he works to turn the company around in the face of patent cliff issues past, current and looming. He has promised growth next year.

AstraZeneca ($AZN) today said it has agreed to sell the rights in China to blood pressure drug Plendil to China Medical for $310 million as well as the global rights outside of the U.S. to angina treatment Imdur for $190 million. According to Reuters, Plendil had 2015 sales in China of $189 million. Imdur revenues outside of the U.S. were $57 million last year.

There has been a long list of these kinds of deals. The company raised $500 million by selling a partnership to Eli Lilly ($LLY) for an Alzheimer's drug. It snagged $200 million from Daiichi Sankyo, allowing the Japanese drugmaker to develop its treatment for opioid-induced constipation Movantik. Another $215 million was raised by licensing out its gastrointestinal drug Entocort to Tillotts Pharma, and on and on.

But there have been some eyebrows raised by some of the deals like last year when it sold to Celgene ($CELG) the rights to develop a blood-cancer immunotherapy candidate.

The drugmaker last year also unloaded the Phase III-complete psoriasis therapy brodalumab to Valeant ($VRX) for $100 million and $345 million in potential milestones and bonuses. It inked that deal after partner Amgen ($AMGN) gave up on the project because investigators had found a link between the treatment and suicidal thinking.

While the drug product's future was in question, brodalumab was also a candidate that Soriot had lauded in 2014, when he was trying to convince shareholders to reject a $119 billion buyout from Pfizer ($PFE). He indicated then that the drug would earn $500 million to $1.5 billion a year, part of the $45 billion in annual sales he said was the goal for AstraZeneca.

- read the announcement
- more from Reuters

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