Merck Acquires Cubist Pharmaceuticals

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The acquisition will enhance Merck's "superbug" medication portfolio.

Merck announced Dec. 8, 2014 that it would acquire Cubist Pharmaceuticals for a total transaction value of approximately $9.5 billion, including a little over $1 million in debt. The deal will add to Merck’s portfolio of drugs treating antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as Cubist’s antibiotic Cubicin (daptomycin for injection), the only approved once-a-day therapy for both Staphylococcus aureus bacteremia and complicated skin and skin structure infections.

Merck stands to benefit from Cubist's anti-infective Zerbaxa (ceftolozane/tazobactam), which is pending approval from FDA. Zerbaxa will enhance Merck's hospital acute care business by providing a treatment for Gram-positive and Gram-negative multi-drug resistant infections. FDA granted Priority Review status to Zerbaxa and the drug has an assigned action date of December 21, 2014. Cubist is also seeking approval of Zerbaxa in Europe for the treatment of complicated urinary tract infections and intra-abdominal infections, with a decision from the European Commission expected during the second half of 2015.

Merck launched a global initiative in 2013 to build its R&D pipeline through strategic merger and acquisition activity, starting with the purchase of Idenix Pharmaceuticals earlier this year. The company says its hospital acute care portfolio grew by more than 10% in the first three quarters of 2014 compared with 2013. Merck had cash reserves available for this expansion initiative as a result of the sale of its consumer business to Bayer for $14.2 billion.

The offerings from Cubist will join Merck’s existing stable of drugs in the acute hospital care space, including several antibiotics and antifungals, as well as Bridion (sugammadex). Merck’s existing pipeline includes actoxumab/bezlotoxumab (MK-3415A), an investigational combination of therapeutic antibodies targeting two Clostridium difficile pathogenic toxins, and relebactam (MK-7655), an investigational class A and C beta-lactamase inhibitor being evaluated in clinical trials for the treatment of severe bacterial infections.


"Cubist is a global leader in antibiotics and has built a strong portfolio of both marketed and late-stage pipeline medicines,” said Kenneth C. Frazier, chairman and CEO, Merck. “Combining this expertise with Merck’s strong capabilities and global reach will enable us to create a stronger position in hospital acute care while addressing critical areas of unmet medical need, such as antibiotic resistance."