AZ jilts gout med Zurampic with $230M rights sale to Grunenthal


Earlier this year, AstraZeneca sold off the U.S. marketing rights to gout drug Zurampic--and now it’s unloading the European and Latin American rights, too.

Thursday, the British drugmaker announced it had licensed the new approval to Grünenthal GmbH for up to $230 million plus milestones and low double-digit royalties. Under the agreement, the German drugmaker will pick up exclusive rights to Zurampic in all EU member states, as well as Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein, and in all Latin American countries; it’ll also nab the rights to a fixed-dose combo of Zurampic and allopurinol, which is currently in clinical trials.

It’s AZ’s second Zurampic hand-off since late April, when the company traded away the drug’s U.S. rights to Massachusetts-based Ironwood Pharmaceuticals in exchange for $265 million in cash plus royalties. And the way the pharma giant sees it, the deals allow it to “focus our resources on the key assets within our main therapy areas,” AZ spokeswoman Michel Meixell told FiercePharma in a statement, noting that “gout is an area of medicine outside of our strategic focus.”

AstraZeneca has been doing a lot of pruning lately as it works to drum up money to sock into a pipeline CEO Pascal Soriot promised would return the company to growth. Recently, it pawned off the rights to a pair of heart drugs to China Medical, raising $500 million in the process. And a string of similar pacts proceeded that one: It netted $500 million by selling a partnership to Eli Lilly for an Alzheimer’s drug, nabbed $200 million from Daiichi Sankyo for development rights to constipation treatment Movantik, scored $215 million by licensing out GI product Entocort to Tillotts Pharma—and the list goes on.

Analysts, though, haven’t all been thrilled with the strategy, though. Last April, after AstraZeneca netted $450 million by letting Celgene in on development of a blood-cancer immunotherapy, Deutsche Bank’s Richard Parkers told Reuters that income from the agreement--and the others like it--was of "questionable sustainability."

With Zurampic, though, AZ might be removing itself from a sticky situation. The med comes along with a raft of safety concerns and some questions about its efficacy, thanks to messy trial data and a black-box warning.

- read AZ's release

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