AbbVie Wins Bidding War for Cancer Drugmaker

The pharmaceutical firm beat out a host of potential suitors, Johnson & Johnson among them, to strike a $21 billion deal with Pharmacyclics.

Mar 5, 2015
Bob Grant

WIKIMEDIA, EPSOS.DENorth Chicago-based pharmaceutical company AbbVie has agreed to by Pharmacyclics, which makes a drug to treat blood cancers, for $21 billion. AbbVie announced the deal yesterday (March 4) in a statement. While industry analysts had pegged Johnson & Johnson (J&J) as the likely purchaser of Pharmacyclics, AbbVie outbid the big pharma firm by offering to pay $261.25 per share in cash and stock.

Pharmacyclics makes Imbruvica (ibrutinib), an anticancer drug that is showing promise in treating chronic lymphocytic leukemia and mantle cell leukemia and is currently being investigated for its ability to treat other B-cell cancers. Global sales of the drug are expected to reach $5.8 billion by 2020, according to consensus analyst estimates compiled by Thomson Reuters Cortellis.

“Imbruvica is not only complementary to AbbVie's oncology pipeline, it has demonstrated strong clinical efficacy across a broad range of hematologic malignancies,” AbbVie Chief Executive Richard Gonzalez said in the statement.

The deal is the first major acquisition for AbbVie since its $54 billion bid to buy Irish drugmaker Shire fell through as tightened US tax rules made such international mergers tougher. Although J&J seems to have lost out on buying Pharmacyclics, the two firms have been comarketing Imbruvica in the U.S. and J&J sells the drug abroad.

The deal between AbbVie and Pharmacyclics is slated to close in the middle of this year, according to The New York Times.