AbbVie and Shire – A Rare Match?

Posted Saturday July 19, 2014 by Melissa

Ever since AbbVie’s initial approach to Shire became public, our Hunter Syndrome community has been watching and waiting. We’ve always known Shire was a candidate for an acquisition, although its tendency as the acquirer as of late has made it a larger pill than some could swallow.

It’s been clear that AbbVie’s goals in the acquisition were mainly two-fold: 1) a 9% reduction in its tax base (read: short term money), and 2) diversification of its products (read: long term money). Little attention has been given to Shire’s more focused bet on rare diseases and what that means in terms of that focus now being “diversified” once again among a wider variety of conditions and research pots.

So as a parent to a Shire patient and clinical trial participant, and advocate for rare disease families who constitute a portion of Shire’s target population, it was hard for me to muster any excitement about such a merger.

A U.S. base of operations sure sounds a little better, as Shire’s U.K. domicile or Boston rare disease unit has been waxing a long time in favor of their Swiss base.

But excited?

I’ll reserve that emotion and instead settle on cautious andcurious.

I’ve done enough M&A in my time to know this is really all about the money (see reasons #1 and #2 for the deal above). But then, Shire had slowly become all about the money anyway, with patient focus lagging further and further behind its rare disease peers like Genzyme, BioMarin, ViroPharma (now part of Shire), UltraGenyx and the like, so what will change?

Smaller fish in bigger pond? Yes.

Opportunity for refocus? Why, yes.

What we would love to see is this. For AbbVie to use this opportunity to highlight patient focused drug development as a central guiding tenet.

ListenToRareThe FDA has done so. PCORI is all about it.

On their website, AbbVie already commits that their life’s work is to improve lives, describing their corporate qualities as being focused, passionate, and making a difference.

So as this deal comes to fruition, Richard Gonzalez, CEO of AbbVie, I encourage you to gather your rare disease constituencies – patients being chief among them – and consider how to do it right. How to make a difference in rare disease.

We are watching. We are listening. We are waiting.



Background on the AbbVie-Shire deal:

Wall Street Journal – AbbVie to Buy Shire for $54 Billion

Boston Globe – Shire deal is year’s biggest in US; AbbVie can claim Irish address and lower tax rate

New York Times – AbbVie Clinches $54 Billion Deal for Shire in a Move to Reduce Taxes

Fox Business – Will Congress Scuttle the AbbVie-Shire Merger?

The Economist – A New Home for Orphans, AbbVie’s Takeover of Shire: Win-Win

The Guardian – Shire Bosses to Receive Windfalls After Takeover by AbbVie


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