AbbVie acquires Allergan
Resources, focus on R&D and customer service promise ophthalmology advances
On 8 May, 2020, AbbVie (North Chicago, Illinois, USA), a research-based global biopharmaceutical company, announced completion of its acquisition of Allergan plc. The $63 billion deal is part of a strategy to strengthen AbbVie’s current and future product portfolio, according to a statement by Richard A Gonzalez, chairman and chief executive officer, AbbVie.
We discussed what the future holds for the new company with both Dr Ignacio Tudurí MD, MBA, Vice President, Specialty, Global Marketing for AbbVie and Mr Charles Holmes, Associate Vice President, Head of Global Eye Care for Allergan an AbbVie company.
“The new AbbVie will be a well-diversified leader in many important therapeutic categories, with both on-market and pipeline assets, and our financial strength will allow us to continue to invest in innovative science and continue to serve unmet medical needs of patients that rely upon us,” Mr Gonzalez said.
Eye care will play an important role, Dr Tudurí told EuroTimes. “Ophthalmology is critical for the new AbbVie. The population is ageing and chronic disorders are rising, such as diabetes provoking diabetic retinopathy, or conditions like macular degeneration, glaucoma, dry eye and other eye diseases – all of these are growing exponentially across the globe. Within the new AbbVie we appreciate Allergan’s history as a leader in ophthalmology for more than 70 years developing and providing innovative treatments for many ophthalmic disease areas.
“Allergan fits very well within AbbVie. We are a company based in R&D; a very patient-centric company aimed at finding solutions for existing unmet needs. We have a special interest on improving eye care management, facilitating the chance that patients can get the treatment they need.” Dr Tudurí added.
“Ophthalmology is allowing us to diversify into new areas where we had no presence beforehand. AbbVie is very strong in immunology, oncology, neuroscience, virology, and now, we are adding eye care. It gives us critical mass so we can invest in new solutions for patients,” Dr Tudurí said. Adding Allergan will also increase AbbVie’s global footprint, giving greater reach in countries where AbbVie was not present.
Being part of a large, diversified organisation may result in cross-pollination across therapeutic areas, benefiting ophthalmology research, added Charles Holmes. “One thing AbbVie brings to the table is a whole bunch of products that AbbVie has developed. We are currently looking at the possibility of using some of these products for ophthalmic purposes. It’s very early days so I can’t give specifics, but we are looking at retina, glaucoma and ocular surface in the cupboard of products that AbbVie has worked with over the years and the assets might not even be on the market today,”
AbbVie has retained the Allergan name, but it is not a separate company. “We will continue to operate as we have but now under the AbbVie umbrella,” Mr Holmes said. “The arrangement brings more resources and more opportunities as the firm strives to address unmet ophthalmic patient need.”
“What we bring to that is we have the Allergan footprint, the Allergan people, the Allergan R&D, the Allergan presence and affiliates, the Allergan distribution network. Now we add on top of that the AbbVie experts, the AbbVie management, the AbbVie scientists – and some of the AbbVie molecules that we could potentially use in ophthalmology,” Mr Holmes said.
Glaucoma is a case in point. Historically, Allergan had products such as eye drops that address early disease and a drainage implant that addresses late disease but few products that fit in between, Dr Tudurí said. Much of the research will focus on filling in this gap.
Reducing the burden of treatment is another research goal, Mr Holmes added. “I’ve been in the business for a long time and from the early days the biggest challenge has been red, irritated eyes [from eyedrops]. A lot really hasn’t changed; we need new ways to treat glaucoma.”
Similarly, frequent injections of anti-VEGF and other treatments for age-related macular degeneration and diabetic macular oedema can put a strain on both patients and clinicians. Reducing the need for them is a major research issue for the new AbbVie, Mr Holmes said. “Less burden for the patient. That is our main focus.”
With COVID-19 pushing both the use of masks and working at home in less-than-optimal conditions, this is exacerbating the already high incidence of dry eye, Mr Holmes noted. Allergan has a wide range of treatments for dry eye and research is under way with the goal of developing more.
The two companies’ history, culture and goals improve the chances that the merger will bring about truly innovative ophthalmology treatments, Mr Holmes said. “Allergan has been in ophthalmology for 70 years. Being part of AbbVie just makes us stronger… Innovation is most important. AbbVie is research-based and has a history of life-changing products. Now we are part of two research-based companies bringing product to market.”
Dr Tudurí concurs. “We are committed to identifying and developing products that may be transformative for people with vision impairment. Not just one more product in a category, but something that makes a remarkable impact on people’s lives.”