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Midsize pharma firms show big appetite for deals

While two mega-mergers involving Big Pharma companies dominated the deal-making in the drug development industry in 2008, several smaller specialty pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms in the region also got in on the action.

Merck and Wyeth, two North Jersey pharmaceutical manufacturers with major operations in the Philadelphia suburbs, were involved in the year’s biggest drug company acquisitions.

Merck, which has major operations in West Point, acquired Schering-Plough Corp. for $41.1 billion in November. Pfizer paid $68 billion to acquire Wyeth a month earlier. Pfizer is keeping Wyeth’s Collegeville site open, but closing its Great Valley campus later this year.

The two deals marked the latest chapter in the ongoing consolidation of Big Pharma, driven largely by the industry’s need to replenish new product pipelines and fuel revenue growth adversely affected by growing generic competition.

Endo Pharmaceuticals in Chadds Ford, Cephalon in Frazer, PhotoMedex in Montgomeryville and Escalon Medical in Wayne were all buyers last year.

Trying to expand beyond its core pain management product line, Endo bought Indevus Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Omaha, Neb., for $590 million in March. Indevus specialized in therapeutics and drug-delivery technology for endocrinology and urology disorders.

Before the year was out, Endo launched Valstar, a treatment developed by Indevus for a distinct form of bladder cancer.

David Holveck, Endo’s CEO, said the deal was part of the company’s plan to evolve into a full-service provider for pelvic health. That effort encompasses pursuing deals that will make Endo a provider of diagnostic tools, medical devices and therapeutic compounds that promote pelvic health.

“We’re not going to own everything; I don’t want to own everything,” Holveck said in an interview late last year. “We want to be the best solution provider in this area. We’ve really just started to build this market out. We have cash on our balance sheet [$456 million as of Sept. 30] and we intend to put it to work.”

In 2009, Endo signed licensing deals with Bioniche Life Sciences of Ontario, Canada, for another experimental bladder cancer drug called Urocidin, and with ProStrakan Group in the United Kingdom for the exclusive rights to sell ProStrakan’s testosterone-replacement therapy gel Fortesta in the United States. Endo is in the process of responding to questions raised by the Food and Drug Administration about the new drug application for Fortesta.

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Kristen Fitch

Senior Director, Marketing