Mergers and Acquisitions and Deals, Oh My!

Another healthcare merger is on the horizon. Last year brought the merger of CVS and health insurer Aetna (in a $69 billion deal), and saw UnitedHealth Group buying both Surgical Care Affiliates ($2.3 billion) and DaVita’s primary care network ($5 billion). Healthcare mergers and acquisitions continue changing the healthcare industry landscape in 2018, with Celgene Corporation eyeing a purchase that will potentially develop a new cancer-fighting drug.

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That's the same Celgene that has almost doubled the cost of one of their other cancer drugs, and was part of a multi-million dollar campaign to squelch talk about high drug prices

Celgene announced intentions to purchase Impact Biomedicines in a multi-billion-dollar deal. Celgene is a biopharmaceutical corporation that develops and commercializes medicines for cancer and inflammatory disorders. Impact Biomedicines is developing a medication called fedratinib for myelofibrosis (a rare bone marrow cancer) and polycythemia vera (another form of cancer). Clinical tests have been made with the drug, and the results have been positive. The drug will continue to be tested and developed. If milestones are met, Celgene will add to the deal, offering payments up to $1.25 billion based on regulatory approval of the drug. This could make a big change in the lives of patients.

"Myelofibrosis is a disease with high unmet medical need as the number of patients who are ineligible for or become resistant to existing therapy continues to increase," states Nadim Ahmed, President, Hematology and Oncology for Celgene in a press release. If all goes according to Celgene’s plans, they will have a new drug that will be ready to go in front of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for possible approval in late 2018.

According to Celgene, the merge will broaden the drugs reach.

"We believe Celgene is the ideal organization to follow through on our mission of maximizing fedratinib's potential for patients with myelofibrosis," Dr. John Hood, Chief Executive Officer of Impact shared in a statement.

The deal will also mean big changes in Celgene’s pockets. The company currently offers Revlimid, a blood cancer drug, and made $2.1 billion in sales of the drug in the third quarter of 2017. If successful, the drug fedratinib could mean sales of about $1 billion per year.

What does it all mean for the patients in NC? This new deal could provide relief for cancer patients, with Celgene offering more than one therapy for rare cancers. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the drug will move pass trial runs or gain FDA approval.

Forbes covers the topic and adds an angle that could eventually help all patients: the creation of new drugs by smaller labels. “There's increasing power for the people who invent drugs, compared to those who raise money for them, a tension that has existed since biotech's beginnings,” Forbes’ Matthew Herper shares. This potential shift in the pharmaceutical industry could mean more mergers, more acquisitions, and more innovation.

The deal puts Celgene front and center with merger talks, adding to the trend that spiked last year. With new mergers, names that may not be well-known outside of the healthcare industry (had you heard of Celgene before today?) are making mainstream news. Whether the merger and the new drug are a success remains to be seen.

Are mergers a good or bad thing for the healthcare industry? Share your thoughts in the comments or on Facebook.

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