$2.7 billion deal anticipates regulatory success for drug candidate under review

AstraZeneca (AZ) has agreed to buy US specialist drug company ZS Pharma for around $2.7 billion (£1.8 billion) in an effort to bolster its drug pipeline.

The deal comes in anticipation of regulatory approval for ZS’s first drug product – an ion-sequestering zirconium silicate called ZS-9, which strongly binds potassium ions and stops them being absorbed from the gut. The drug is designed to treat hyperkalaemia – excessive potassium levels in blood serum – which is associated with kidney and cardiovascular diseases.

ZS-9 is under review by the US Food and Drug Administration, with a decision on its approval expected in May 2016. ZS and its 200 staff will initially become a wholly-owned subsidiary of AZ.