Ex-Novartis unit Alcon keeps eye med expansion rolling with $770M pact to snap up Aerie

Former Novartis subsidiary Alcon, after targeting the pharmaceutical eye drop scene with a trio of recent drug purchases, is adding another pair of arrows to its ophthalmic quiver. And this time, the company is setting its sights long-distance.

Alcon will shell out $15.25 per share—or about $770 million—to bring Aerie Pharmaceuticals into the fold, the companies said Tuesday. The buyout, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter, will let Alcon get its hands on Aerie’s marketed glaucoma and ocular hypertension meds Rhopressa and Rocklatan.  

Aerie doesn’t break out individual sales figures for its duo of commercial eye meds, though the company last year reported total glaucoma revenues of $112.1 million. That haul marked a 35% increase from the $83.1 million Rhopressa and Rocklatan generated in 2020.

As for 2022, Aerie expects its glaucoma meds to bring home sales of between $130 million and $140 million. Outside the U.S., commercialization rights for the glaucoma duo in most markets are with Santen.

Alcon expects the Aerie deal to start boosting profits in 2024, the companies said.

Alcon’s current workforce stands about 24,000 strong, the company said in its M&A announcement. The companies didn’t say how many staffers Aerie employs or whether they’d all be joining the Alcon team. The companies didn’t mention Alcon’s potential inheritance of Aerie facilities either.

Alcon did not immediately respond to Fierce Pharma’s request for comment.

The deal isn’t just good for Alcon’s commercial coffers: Aerie also comes equipped with AR-15512, a late-stage candidate for dry eye disease. On top of that drug prospect, the company has “several clinical and preclinical” ophthalmic contenders in its pipeline that should help rev up Alcon’s R&D engine, the companies said.

“Aerie is a natural fit with on-market and pipeline products, and R&D capabilities that offer the infrastructure needed to expand our ophthalmic pharmaceutical presence,” Alcon CEO David Endicott said in a statement.

Alcon has been on something of an eye disease expansion tear in recent months, laying out $60 million upfront back in May to snap up Kala Pharmaceuticals’ dry eye disease drug Eysuvis, plus Inveltys, which is cleared to treat postoperative inflammation and pain after eye surgery. Kala has struggled to turn those drugs into commercial successes. Sales of the two drugs totaled just $1.4 million in the first quarter, down from $3.3 million over the same period in 2021.

Separately, Alcon last April turned to its former parent company Novartis to lock up U.S. marketing rights on the ophthalmic eye drop Simbrinza, which is indicated to reduce heightened intraocular pressure in patients with open-angle glaucoma or ocular hypertension. Alcon offered Novartis $355 million for the drug.

After more than eight years under the Swiss pharma’s wing, eye care specialist Alcon parted ways with Novartis in April 2019.

Novartis originally bought Alcon in three tranches, closing its full merger April 8, 2011. Then-Novartis CEO Joseph Jimenez trumpeted the “significant” cost-cutting and growth potential the Alcon deal could bring.