Merck nabs eye specialist Inspire for $430M

Merck has inked a $430 million deal to buy Inspire Pharmaceuticals in a bid to expand its arsenal of meds for eye use. The cash offer of $5 per share has been approved by the boards of both companies, and Warburg Pincus, Inspire's major shareholder, has agreed to tender its 28 percent stake.

The offering price is a 26 percent premium to Inspire's Monday close. But the company's stock has been trading low lately after losing more than half its value in January, when the company's cystic fibrosis drug failed a late-stage trial. The company has since announced plans to cut its work force and focus on eye care. Inspire makes Azasite, a drug for pinkeye, and the dry-eye treatment Restasis, which is marketed by Allergan.

"Merck continues to build upon its long-term commitment to improving therapeutic options for the treatment of eye diseases," Merck SVP Beverly Lybrand said in a statement. "This acquisition combines the talented commercialization organization at Inspire with the excellent team already in place at Merck thereby strengthening our ophthalmology business and positioning us for future growth with an expanded portfolio."

The eye-care business has emerged as an attractive segment for Big Pharma lately. Novartis spent billions to acquire Alcon, which makes contact lenses and other eye-related treatments and products. And Sanofi-Aventis reportedly has been looking at expanding its eye-care portfolio, considering four acquisitions worth up to €1 billion.

- read the Merck news release
- get the news from Reuters
- see the Wall Street Journal story