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AstraZeneca holding firm against Pfizer advances

AstraZeneca holding firm against Pfizer's advances

By Beth Kutscher
Posted: May 23, 2014 - 7:45 pm ET

With a May 26 deadline looming, British drug giant AstraZeneca is holding firm in its refusal to accept a $119 billion offer from rival Pfizer to create the world's largest pharmaceutical company.

The record-setting offer is just one of a slew of mega-deals this year in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors.

And it also comes as insurers are pushing back against high prices for specialty drugs.

Pfizer first went public with its takeover proposal in late April, and over the next few weeks, sweetened its offer three times as it was continually rebuffed. Pfizer insists that its current proposal—valued at $119 billion—is its final offer.

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The deal alone is larger than the value of the entire year's worth of transactions in the sector in 2013, the largest of which was Amgen's $10.4 billion play for Onyx Pharmaceuticals. But Pfizer isn't the only drugmaker putting up big bucks this year to bolster its ailing pipeline.

Valeant Pharmaceuticals has pledged to increase its $47 billion April bid for dermatology company Allergan--best known as the developer of Botox—which is doing its best to fend off a hostile takeover. That deal tops Actavis' $25 billion offer for Forest Laboratories in February, and Novartis' $16 billion deal for GlaxoSmithKline's oncology portfolio last month.

Yet as drugmakers attempt to build strength in specialty therapeutic areas, drug prices are once again in the spotlight. Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of trade group America's Health Insurance Plans, on Wednesday told a healthcare forum that the high costs of new specialty drugs are unsustainable for large patient populations.

With drugs like Gilead Sciences' new hepatits C drug Sovaldi commanding $1,000 pill, the questions about price caps and rationing are once again part of the national discussion. But drug developers counter that their treatments can be cost-effective alternatives to more invasive procedures like transplants.

Follow Beth Kutscher on Twitter: @MHbkutscher

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