Novartis, busy with its restructuring, sells 5 eye drugs for up to $175M

Amid a major restructuring and the spinoff of generics unit Sandoz, Novartis isn't done shaking things up.

The pharma giant has sold five of its ophthalmic drugs to eye therapy company Harrow for a one-time payment of $130 million, plus additional milestone payments of $45 million.

The sale includes cataract surgery recovery eye drops Ilevro and Nevanac, bacterial conjunctivitis eyedrop Vigamox, inflammation eye drops Maxidex and the injectable Triesence. The deal puts Harrow on the map into “a leadership position in the U.S. ophthalmic pharmaceuticals market,” Mark L. Baum, Harrow’s CEO and chairman, said in a statement.

“We know these products very well and have long appreciated and admired them for the value they have delivered to thousands of U.S. eyecare professionals and many millions of their patients,” Baum added.

The deal will likely close during the first quarter of 2023. Afterward, Novartis will still own the products outside of the U.S.

Novartis “remains committed to patients by supporting access to important medicines for eye diseases and conditions with our current marketed products and future pipeline,” a company spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Fierce Pharma.

Last month, Bloomberg reported that Novartis was considering selling its ophthalmology and respiratory disease businesses, citing people familiar with the matter. Those two sectors aren’t included in the five-core therapeutic areas that the company’s CEO, Vas Narasimhan, M.D., targeted for the company's future.

At the time, the value of the ophthalmology franchise was weighed at about $5 billion, the people reportedly told Bloomberg. The deals were said to happen next year, if at all, as the company finishes its planned Sandoz separation.

The sale is Novartis' latest move to downsize in ophthalmology. In 2019, the Swiss pharma giant spun off its eyecare unit, Alcon, after eight years of ownership.

The 2011 merger between Alcon and Novartis was the result of a three-year pursuit of the eye specialist by Novartis. But lagging sales eventually led to the split so Novartis could “focus our capital and energy on building our core medicines business,” Narasimhan said at the time.

Now, with another major spinoff in the works, Novartis is shedding off more noncore assets. Along with the Sandoz separation, other major restructuring includes an 8,000-person round of layoffs to streamline the business.