Orexigen buys US obesity pill rights from partner Takeda

By Natalie Grover (Reuters) - Orexigen Therapeutics Inc bought the U.S. rights to its flagship obesity drug from co-developer Takeda Pharmaceutical Co Ltd and said it would enlist Valeant Pharmaceutical International Inc to sell the pill in Europe. The company, which holds the rights to the drug outside the United States, said on Tuesday it would pay Takeda $60 million. Orexigen and Takeda developed the drug, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2014 and sold in the United States as Contrave. However, the relationship soured last year after an unauthorized release of trial data by Orexigen led to the termination of a heart-risk study of the drug. [nL3N0Y380G] Japan's Takeda launched a formal dispute process in May, seeking, among other things, that Orexigen fund the entire cost of a new cardiovascular study. But the two companies in August said they had resolved their disputes and realigned their partnership. The deal is expected to close later this month but Takeda will continue to sell the drug during a six-month transition period, Orexigen said. [nPnc4vC4d] [nPnb7m3Fh] "While it's true that Orexigen will have to take over the expense of commercialization, we will switch from earning 20 percent of net sales to 100 percent of net sales", company executives said on a conference call. The obesity drug market in the United States is yet to realize its potential, despite one in three Americans suffering from the disease. Limited effectiveness of existing drugs, reimbursement hurdles, bungled launches and the perception of obesity as a 'lifestyle' disease have all weighed, experts say. Since its launch in October 2014, Contrave prescriptions have steadily increased but declined in the fourth quarter from the preceding. Still, the drug holds the largest share - 41 percent - of the branded obesity drug market in the United States as of January 2016, the company said, citing IMS Health data. The drug competes with Vivus Inc's Qsymia, Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc's Belviq and Novo Nordisk A/S's Saxenda. Valeant will market the drug, sold as Mysimba in the European Union, in 12 EU countries where it has been approved and seek marketing authorization in several non-EU countries, Orexigen said. Orexigen said on Tuesday it expects to sign more partnership deals to commercialize the drug this year. The La Jolla, California-based company's shares were down 10 percent in morning trading amid a broader rout in biotechnology stocks, reversing from a 30 percent jump premarket. (Reporting by Natalie Grover in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Sriraj Kalluvila)