Organon's $14 billion dollar pipeline
When Schering-Plough bought the Organon Biosciences unit of Akzo-Nobel in March this year, industry watchers were surprised by the $14.4 billion (£7.2 billion) price tag.
'When you compare it to Bayer's purchase of Schering AG last year, they paid 14.3 billion (£9.7 billion): only slightly more for a much larger company with a bigger pipeline,' Jacob Pleith from Scrip World Pharmaceutical News told Chemistry World. 'But it just demonstrates the lack of interesting take-over targets in the market.'
It also attests to the promising drugs that Organon is now steering through the final Phase III stage of clinical trials. Schering says that the acquisition will fill a gap in its late stage pipeline and provide immediate access to central nervous system and women's health care products.
Asenapine: promising antipsychotic
The company also boasts an award-winning molecule: Sugammadex, designed to quickly reverse the effects of a muscle relaxant called rocuronium (sold as Zemuron or Esmeron) that prevents reflex movements during surgery. Rocuronium is an aminosteroid that paralyses muscles by blocking receptors for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Most agents that reverse this muscular block modulate the effects of acetylcholine, rather than the relaxant itself. They directly reactivate the motor nerves, usually by inhibiting the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine. But this can cause dangerous side effects by over-stimulating the muscle of the heart and lungs.
Sugammadex: whole lotta hole
New blockbuster on the block?
Organon's women's health products come in the shape of Nomac/E2, the first oral contraceptive pill to contain oestradiol, the form of oestrogen produced naturally by the body, and ORG36286, a long-acting fertility hormone, which stimulates the production of eggs by the ovary.
Yet Schering-Plough's enthusiasm for its newly-acquired pipeline has not silenced its critics. Many say that the company has too much riding on the effectiveness of asenapine, which is yet to be conclusively proven. But Pleith points out that there are benefits beyond these five new drugs that drove Schering-Plough to take the plunge. 'Schering are also paying for a way into Europe,' he told Chemistry World. 'And Organon Biosciences has a very strong animal health business. It's lower margin and less exciting, but much more important to the company than people realise.'
But if asenapine does deliver as promised, Schering will be launching something of a dying breed - a brand new blockbuster.
Organon Biosciences' five Phase III drugs
- Asenapine: treats patients with schizophrenia and acute mania bipolar disorder
- Sugammadex: reverses neuromuscular blockade induced during surgical procedures
- Nomac/E2: oral contraceptive product containing nomegestrol acetate, a novel progesterone, and oestradiol, a natural oestrogen
- ORG36286: a long-acting recombinant follicle-stimulating hormone for infertility
- Esmirtazapine (ORG50081): a serotonin-2 blocker for the treatment of insomnia, and potentially for hot flushes in menopausal women.