Meda grabs MA maker of asthma inhaler for $135M

A Swedish pharmaceutical company is forking over more than $135 million for a Massachusetts rival on the verge of launching a new asthma inhaler drug/device combo.

But Meda, which focuses on respiratory products, said it would pay at least $10 million more, based on development and royalty-based milestones, as part of its deal to acquire Acton Pharmaceuticals, a startup backed in part by Sequoia Capital.

Here's what Meda initially wants: the technology behind Aerospan, which delivers the drug flunisolide to treat asthma. The product already has FDA approval, the companies note. It stands out, in part, through the use of a built-in inhalation chamber known as a spacer that enables the deposit of high levels of Flunisolide in the airways. The drug also appears not to hamper children's growth, studies indicate. Plans call for launching the combo product in early 2013. And Meda has big goals as far as sales. The company notes that the U.S. market for inhaled asthma products with a mono-corticosteroid is worth more than $2 billion, and Meda expects a rapid sales ramp-up. Plans call for hitting at least the $300 million (2 billion SEK) mark in annual sales by 2018, the company said.

Acton is also focused on other areas, including allergy treatments.

Meda CEO Anders Lönner said in a statement that the deal to buy Acton represented an ideal opportunity for his company.

"The acquisition of Acton is a unique opportunity to gain access to a newly registered product in the U.S. market," he said. "Aerospan is within Meda's primary focus area--respiratory--and is based on new technology."

Meda says the use of spacers in asthma inhaler devices is growing "very rapidly," with one-third of patients in some markets already using products to deliver inhaled corticosteroids that feature the technology update.

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