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Medicines Co. Sells Infectious Disease Drugs, Focusing on PCSK9

Xconomy New York — 

The Medicines Co. has sold a group of three infectious disease drugs to Melinta Therapeutics for $215 million in cash and $55 million in stock, as well as future royalty payments on the three drugs, which are already on the market.

The deal is an effort by Parsippany, NJ-based Medicines Co. (NASDAQ: MDCO) to get a cash cushion as it focuses its research on another drug, inclisiran, an experimental cholesterol-lowering treatment the company is studying in a Phase 3 clinical trial along with partner Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALNY). The drug aims to lower cholesterol by inhibiting a target popular among a new wave of similar drugs, a protein known as PCSK9. Leerink analysts expect the cash from Melinta to help Medicines Co. run the trial through 2019, according to a note released this morning.

The three bacteria-fighting, FDA-approved drugs Melinta (NASDAQ: MLNT) is buying are Vabomere, a treatment for urinary tract infections, including a type of kidney infection; Orbactiv, an antibiotic that targets acute bacterial skin and skin structure infections; and Minocin IV, which is used to treat various bacterial infections.

Vabomere—the most recent to be approved, in August—stands to make Medicines Co. the largest amount from royalty payments of up to 25 percent on sales above $500 million. New Haven, CT-based Melinta would need to pay up to 15 percent in royalties on sales over $100 million for the other two drugs. The Leerink analysts expect peak sales of $520 million for Vabomere.

Medicines Co.’s focus on inclisiran comes as other drug developers have encountered some market hesitation regarding their PCSK9 drugs, which aim to lower the “bad” type of cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Amgen (NASDAQ: AMGN) has been encouraged to lower its roughly $14,000 annual price tag of its PCSK9 inhibitor, evolocumab (Repatha). A rival drug, alirocumab (Praluent), from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: REGN) and partner Sanofi, costs about the same. Medicines Co., like Amgen and Regeneron, is studying the impact of its cholesterol drug on heart attacks and strokes, in part to entice insurers.

Earlier this year, Kenilworth, NJ-based drug giant Merck (NYSE: MRK) released initial results of a four-year, 30,449-patient study of anacetrapib, a drug known as a CETP inhibitor, which aims to increase the “good” cholesterol in the body, high-density lipoprotein (HDL). If successful, the drug was seen as a possible challenger to the PCSK9 inhibitors. Merck said the anacetrapib trial met its main goal, but there were questions about side effects and the magnitude of the drug’s benefit. Merck decided in October to pull the plug on the drug.