GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis asset swap granted European clearance

GlaxoSmithKline received approval from the European Commission to complete its previously announced asset swap with Novartis, the UK drugmaker announced Wednesday. "The decision is conditional upon the divestiture of assets in the vaccines and consumer health businesses," the European Commission stated.

Specifically, under the terms of the approval, GlaxoSmithKline agreed to market its meningitis vaccines Nimenrix and Mencevax globally, as well as divest two Novartis bivalent vaccines for diphtheria and tetanus in Italy and Germany. Meanwhile, the UK company also agreed to divest a number of consumer-health brands in various European markets.

Separately, the European Commission also expressed concern that Novartis' purchase of GlaxoSmithKline's oncology business could result in "reduced competition and innovation." Consequently, Novartis indicated last month that it would return full rights to the experimental MEK inhibitor binimetinib to Array BioPharma. The Swiss company later agreed to divest global rights to the investigational BRAF inhibitor encorafenib to Array for an undisclosed amount (for related analysis, see ViewPoints: Array BioPharma emerges as the cancer comeback kid).

In the transaction, Novartis will acquire GlaxoSmithKline's marketed oncology portfolio, related R &D activities and rights to two pipeline AKT inhibitors, for as much as $16 billion, while GlaxoSmithKline will obtain Novartis' vaccines business, excluding influenza, for $5.25 billion. The drugmakers also agreed to form a consumer healthcare joint venture. GlaxoSmithKline said that the transaction remains on schedule to close in the first half of this year.

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