UPDATED: Allergan pays $200M+ to buy GI candidate on mixed PhIIb diabetes data

Allergan HQ

Allergan ($AGN) said last spring that it would become more acquisitive after its proposed megamerger with Pfizer ($PFE) collapsed, and it’s been true to its word. The company has just announced at least its sixth acquisition in the last three months.

This time, Allergan is buying Motus Therapeutics, a subsidiary of Rhythm Holding designed to hold its diabetic gastroparesis treatment relamorelin, which also just passed a Phase IIb test in that indication. The biopharma held an option to buy the candidate under a deal last year with Actavis, which subsequently acquired Allergan and assumed that name.

"Allergan has exercised its option to acquire Motus, and relamorelin will now advance into Phase III trials," said Bart Henderson, founder and president of Rhythm Holding, in a statement. "Relamorelin has enormous potential to improve the lives of patients with GI functional disorders."

Allergan has already made $47 million in payments tied to its option to acquire Motus; the deal exercise price of $200 million is in addition to that. Also, Rhythm stands to receive an undisclosed contingent payment upon the first commercial sale of relamorelin. The deal is slated to close by year end.

"Based on these results and the results observed in the earlier Phase IIa trial, Allergan has exercised its option to acquire Motus Therapeutics and intends to initiate Phase III clinical trials of relamorelin," said Allergan EVP of Global R&D David Nicholson. "We very much look forward to sharing this Phase IIb data with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and to discussing our plans to conduct Phase II trials."

In the Phase IIb data, relamorelin reduced vomiting frequency by about 75% as compared to baseline across all doses, data that were comparable to earlier Phase IIa results. But the trial did not reach statistical significance on its primary endpoint due to an "unusually high placebo response" that exceeded that in prior studies. Rhythm and Allergan are slated to present the data at a GI conference next year.

An Allergan spokesperson responded to an earlier iteration of this story, noting that the company will be evaluating vomiting in the Phase III trials--and that Phase IIa data found 60% relamorelin efficacy versus placebo.

The 393-patient, double-blind, placebo-controlled study was carried out in the U.S. and Europe on Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics with gastroparesis; it included doses ranging from 10 mcg to 100 mcg, administered twice daily over three months.

On the safety side, some patients saw a worsening of glycemic control, which the Allergan spokesperson said may be related to GI symptom improvement. In the Phase III testing, closer attention will be paid to glucose monitoring and diabetic therapy adjustment, he said.

"There has not been a drug approved for gastroparesis by the FDA since 1983,” noted Dr. Richard McCallum of Texas Tech University. “Relamorelin may offer a much needed opportunity for patients with diabetic gastroparesis to have symptom relief and improved quality of life. It is particularly impressive that relamorelin can be delivered through subcutaneous injections because these patients are not able to absorb medications once they start vomiting."

This is just the latest in the Allergan buying spree. Last month, it snapped up a pair of NASH companies, alongside other deals for dermatology player Vitae Pharmaceuticals and ophthalmic gene therapy company RetroSense Therapeutics.

Editors note: This story was updated to add comments on the Phase IIb data from an Allergan spokesperson.