Novartis Pharmaceuticals has entered into an agreement to acquire The Medicines Company, which is developing an experimental cholesterol-lowering drug called inclisiran, for $9.7 billion, according to a statement released Sunday (November 24). The merger comes two years after The Medicines Company founder Clive Meanwell announced that the company was selling assets and laying off most of its workers in order to focus solely on inclisiran, according to Bloomberg.
In the past few years, pharmaceutical companies have produced a class of drugs that lower cholesterol by inhibiting a protein called PCSK9 in a new attempt to reduce the risk of heart disease, the number one cause of death worldwide. Preventing the PCSK9 protein from being produced makes the liver better able to remove low-density lipoprotein, associated with heart attack and stroke, from the blood. An antibody drug produced by the pharmaceutical company Amgen that acts on PCSK9 was approved in 2015, and so was one from Regeneron, in collaboration with Sanofi. But the drugs, which are given by injection either every two weeks or monthly and had a hefty $14,000 price tag upon approval, faced resistance from clinicans, reports STAT.
Inclisiran uses a different mechanism to lower PCSK9 protein levels—it inhibits the gene PCSK9 through RNA interference and would only need to be injected twice a year. A study of the medicine’s long-term effects is underway, according to STAT, and The Medicines Company plans to submit a US application for regulatory approval by the end of the year, reports Bloomberg.
“I am very excited about the opportunity to add inclisiran to our cardiovascular portfolio,” says Marie-France Tschudin, the president of Novartis, in the statement. “This transformational, new investigational medicine has the potential to meaningfully address one of the largest areas of underserved patient need.”
Emily Makowski is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.