Glaxo divests Wellbutrin XL rights for $510M

GlaxoSmithKline is saying so long/farewell to Wellbutrin XL. The drugmaker has sold off U.S. rights to the extended-release antidepressant to Canada's Biovail for $510 million, as part of a "reshaping" of its U.S. business. Indeed, Wellbutrin XL is only one drug Glaxo intends to offload this year; the company says it expects to reap $1.1 billion from asset sales in 2009.

"We are actively reshaping our US business and managing the transition occurring in our product portfolio," Deirdre Connelly (photo), North American pharma president, said in a statement. "This transaction is one of a series of actions we are taking to maximize the value of our current assets and to enable us to resource and invest in new products and upcoming launches."

The deal fits Biovail's new long-term strategies, too, the company said. Now off-patent in the States, Wellbutrin XL was originally developed by Biovail, but it has been sold in the U.S. by Glaxo since 2003. Reacquiring the rights "is all about accelerating [Biovail's] shift into specialty neurology," CEO Bill Wells said during a quarterly conference call.

For Glaxo's part, Wellbutrin XL apparently wasn't worth the trouble; generic competition gouged some 70 percent out of first-quarter Wellbutrin sales. Globally, sales fell 66 percent.

- see the GSK release
- read the Globe and Mail story

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