AstraZeneca chief executive David Brennan has repeated his claims that the company will not be jumping on the mega-merger merry-go-round that has returned to the pharmaceutical sector.

In an interview with the Financial Times, when asked whether he felt isolated with all the big deals going on around him, Mr Brennan said “no, not at all”. Referring to Pfizer’s proposed acquisition of Wyeth and Roche buying out Genentech, he added that “I think a couple of the deals that have happened just match up some needs or some prior relationships that a couple of those companies had before that”.

Mr Brennan went on to say that “our view is more oriented toward collaboration than consolidation.” If there were acquisition opportunities for AstraZeneca, “they would be in the small company, product, technology side of things, not a large-scale transaction to take out capacity. That's not what we're looking for”.

When asked by the FT if he had a size limit in mind, Mr Brennan said that “I haven't scaled it, no, but product acquisitions and company acquisitions are an awful lot less than the values that are being paid for mid- to large-size companies”. He added that “I'd love to see some late stage pipeline-type opportunities” but “they are few and far between”. As such, “the second area we look is from a Phase II perspective, in areas that are aligned with our areas of expertise”.

Court calls halt to generic of AstraZeneca’s Pulmicort Respules
Meantime, AstraZeneca has been boosted in its bid to stop Canadian drugmaker Apotex from marketing its generic version of the asthma drug Pulmicort Respules in the USA.

A court in New Jersey has granted the Anglo-Swedish firm’s request for a temporary restraining order, barring Apotex from launching its copycat version of Pulmicort Respules (budesonide inhalation suspension) “until further order”. The decision comes 10 days after AstraZeneca made its request and the court is scheduled to hold a hearing on April 27 to determine whether the injunction should be continued.

AstraZeneca said that it has “full confidence in the strength of its intellectual property rights” protecting the product. Full-year US sales for Pulmicort reached $982 million in 2008 and about 90% of that total is accounted for by Pulmicort Respules – patents covering the latter expire in 2018 with paediatric exclusivity extending to 2019.

In November, the firm entered into a settlement with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries concerning Pulmicort Respules, whereby the latter agreed that it will not resume selling its budesonide inhalation suspension product until December 15 this year. Teva will market its product under an exclusive licence granted by AstraZeneca which will receive a “significant undisclosed royalty”.