£186m drugs sale allows AstraZeneca to refocus

AstraZeneca has signed a 239 million US dollar (£186 million) deal to sell a revenue-generating anti-psychotic drug as it bids to move away from mature treatments and invest in innovation.

Germany’s Cheplapharm Arzneimittel bought the rights to sell schizophrenia and bipolar drugs Seroquel and Seroquel XR in Europe and Russia from the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical giant.

It will pay 178 million dollars (£138 million) up front, but the figure could rise to 239 million dollars (£186 million) based on how well the drugs sell.

AstraZeneca has already sold the rights to the two versions of Seroquel in the UK, Japan and elsewhere.

“Seroquel is an important established medicine and this agreement with Cheplapharm will help ensure continued patient access,” said Ruud Dobber, AstraZeneca’s executive vice president for biopharmaceuticals.

“It forms part of our strategy of reducing the portfolio of mature medicines to enable reinvestment in our main therapy areas.”

The drugs had combined sales of 108 million dollars (£84 million) last year, AstraZeneca said.

It is the second time in a month that the two companies have reached a deal.

On October 1, the AstraZeneca sold the rights to Losec to Cheplapharm for 276 million dollars (£214 million). The drug helps some patients control the amount of stomach acid they produce, and is used to treat a range of issues.

The divestment money, and the resources the sales will free up, lets the company focus on its three main areas – including cardiovascular diseases.

It will release cash to develop new drugs for patients who have no options on the market, the drug-maker said.

The strategy has invigorated investors, as a series of breakthroughs in recent months helped push up AstraZeneca’s share price by almost 17% since the end of July.

Shares rose by around 0.5% to 7,421 on Wednesday morning.

Last week the firm upped its economic outlook, boosted by new drugs.

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