Company news from the 03/31/06 News Brief

Novartis and SGX Pharmaceuticals have entered a collaboration agreement to develop new drugs for patients with chronic myelogeneous leukemia who develop resistance to Novartis’ blockbuster treatment Gleevec. Novartis also announced that it has exercised its option from Idenix Pharmaceuticals to in-license the late-stage development compound valopicitabine (NM283) for the treatment of hepatitis C. Under the terms of the agreement, Idenix and Novartis will co-promote this compound in the US and the five major European markets (United Kingdom, Spain, France, Italy and Germany); Novartis will have exclusive rights to market and promote it in the rest of the world. Novartis may pay up to $70 million in license fees to Idenix, of which $25 million were paid at the time of exercising the option. Further payments may be payable based upon regulatory milestones. GlaxoSmithKline and Colgate-Palmolive are among the companies expected to make bids for Pfizer’s consumer products line in a first round of bidding beginning this week. Pfizer is targeting a price of about $14 billion. Other potential bidders include Novartis and England’s Reckitt Benckiser. The division represents a small portion, less than 10%, of Pfizer. It could take several months for Pfizer to sift through the offers, ask for proposals and name a final winner. Sanofi-Aventis has purchased a 24.9% stake in Czech drug maker Zentiva for $515 million, becoming the largest shareholder in the Prague-based company, which develops and markets branded generic pharmaceutical products. The deal is the first acquisition by Sanofi-Aventis since its creation in the 2004 takeover of Aventis by Sanofi-Synthelabo. Zentiva employs more than 4,000 people and has production sites in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania. In 2005, Zentiva posted net sales of $491 million. GlaxoSmithKline will pay $14 million to resolve allegations that state-government programs paid inflated prices for the firm’s anti-depressant drug Paxil because by blocking cheaper generic versions from entering the market, the California State Attorney General’s office said this week. GSK entered the settlement with California, 46 other states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.