Deals give Fresenius entry into rapidly growing biological drugs market

German generic drugmaker Fresenius Kabi has agreed to buy generics and formulation specialist Akorn for around $4.3 billion (£3.4 billion) in cash, as well as taking on $450 million of Akorn’s debt. At the same time, the company will pay €170 million (£145 million) up front for Merck KGaA’s biosimilars business, plus potential milestone payments of up to €500 million and royalties on any eventual sales.

Fresenius specialises in sterile injectable medicines. Buying Akorn adds a large range of generic drug products to Fresenius’s portfolio, including many injectables. It also brings expertise in developing various other dosage forms, including sterile eye drops; topical creams, ointments and gels; liquids and sprays.

The company’s injectables expertise also makes it ideally placed to enter the growing market in biosimilars – generic versions of biological drugs – which are usually injected. Buying Merck’s biosimilars business gives the company an instant foothold in the market. Merck is selling the unit as part of its plan to refocus its in-house R&D on small molecules, while building drug development and support services, which it will provide to Fresenius under the terms of the deal.