Pharma M&A activity reaches new heights this year

Drugmakers made 21 deals totaling $62.1 billion in Q1 2015.
Drugmakers made 21 deals totaling $62.1 billion in Q1 2015.

Pharma wheeled and dealed its way to a record-breaking first quarter in terms of overall money that changed hands, or deal value, according to a recent report from PwC.

For the first three months of 2015, the life sciences industry closed 35 deals representing $166.3 billion—an amount higher than all deals in 2014 combined. Even so, the number of deals declined in the first quarter compared to the same period last year.

Pharma led the way for the life sciences industry, accounting for 51% of that total deal value for acquisitions that closed during the quarter. 

In terms of deals announced in the first quarter, drugmakers disclosed 21 deals totaling $62.1 billion. Pharma's deals made up 82% of all announced deal value in the quarter. 

One reason for the increase has been consolidation of payers and providers, which put more strain on drugmakers to expand their offerings and adopt new business lines to demonstrate value to customers, PwC researchers wrote. This became increasingly apparent among pharmacy benefit managers over the past few months with a number of high-profile buyouts. UnitedHealth Group acquired Catamaran for $12 billion in March, while Rite Aid purchased EnvisionRx for $2 billion in February.

Generic drugmakers, too, played their part in an eventful M&A quarter. Teva purchased specialty drugmaker Auspex for $3.4 billion to acquire SD-809 to help fill the loss of multiple-sclerosis drug Copaxone. Teva has yet to slow down, either, having made multiple bids for generic giant Mylan. Mylan has instead tried to stall that takeover with an attempted acquisition of its own. It's made three bids for Perrigo—all of which have been rebuffed.

Another generic player, Actavis, entered the M&A fray by acquiring Allergan for $66 billion in November, with the deal closing in March. Actavis CEO Brent Saunders told Forbes in January that filling pipelines with acquired assets is becoming a new normal for the industry.

“The idea that to play in the big leagues you have to do drug discovery is really a fallacy,” he told the magazine. “You have to do research, you have to be committed to innovation. I strongly believe that, but discovery has not returned its cost of capital.”