Novartis Acquires Generic Drug Unit For $1.2B

BASEL, Switzerland (AP) -- Swiss pharmaceuticals giant Novartis AG said Wednesday that it will buy the generic injectable cancer drugs business of Austria's EBEWE Pharma for euro925 million ($1.2 billion) in cash.

Novartis said EBEWE's products will be incorporated into its own generics units Sandoz, creating a new unit in Unterach, Austria. Some of EBEWE's products include versions of the chemotherapy agents Cytarabine and Etoposid, along with the breast cancer treatment Tamoxifen.

"These medicines will remain the backbone of multi-drug treatments in the fight against cancer, one of the world's leading causes of death," said Novartis chief executive Daniel Vasella.

The deal excludes EBEWE's line of injectable neurological medicines, Novartis said.

The market for injectable generics was estimated to be worth $10-12 billion in 2008, with cancer drugs accounting for almost a third of that, Novartis said.

The Basel-based company said cancer drugs worth $9 billion in annual sales are expected to lose patent protection by 2015.

Novartis shares closed 0.5 percent higher at 44.52 Swiss francs ($40.41) on the Zurich exchange.

The move comes on the heels of Pfizer Inc.'s decision to expand more strongly into generic drugs. The New York-based company added injected drugs specialist Claris Lifesciences Ltd. as a partner while expanding a prior deal with India-based Aurobindo Pharma Ltd.

The deals come as large pharmaceutical companies scramble to protect revenue because of pricing pressures, increased competition and a lack of new blockbuster drugs. For many companies, their largest moneymakers are losing patent protection, opening the market up to cheaper generic competition and cutting into sales.

More in Supply Chain