iramal Healthcare has denied rumours that it is in talks regarding a sale of the Indian company to GlaxoSmithKline.

The Wall Street Journal had claimed that GSK was contemplating a bid of up to $1.5 billion for the generic drugmaker and Sanofi-Aventis had also been mentioned as a potential purchaser. Both firms are expanding in emerging markets but Piramal issued a statement saying that “we would like to clarify that this is totally unfounded".

The Mumbai-based group added that “we are continuously taking steps to position ourselves for growth and profitability [and] have a strong belief about the significant potential of our core businesses”. Piramal added that “accordingly, we have invested in our sales force, built state-of-the-art facilities and continue to pursue acquisitions opportunistically".

The firm recently acquired selected brands from India-based Khandelwal Labs, PlasmaSelect and the USA’s RxElite. It is also in the process of completing the acquisition of US-headquartered Minrad International.

Piramal, which on its website says that it is “poised to emerge as India's pharma powerhouse”, is involved in a number of businesses, including custom manufacturing for other drug firms. Its revenues for the year March 2008 reached $580 million.

GSK signs HIV deal with Idenix
GSK has been busy, however, and signed a licence agreement, worth up to $450 million, to get access to Idenix's once-daily HIV therapy IDX899.

Under the terms of the deal, GSK is making an upfront cash/stock payment worth $34 million, and potentially $416 million more depending on the achievement of certain milestones. Idenix could also receive double-digit worldwide royalties.

GSK will assume all development responsibility and costs for IDX899, A non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor which is currently in mid-stage testing. The UK major said that to date, the compound “has demonstrated high potency with low milligram doses, a high barrier to drug resistance, favourable risk/benefit profile and the convenience of once-a-day administration”.

The companies stated that "new NNRTIs are needed to address the increasing prevalence of viral resistance and side effects associated with this drug class," and IDX899 has so far "demonstrated high potency with low milligram doses, a high barrier to drug resistance, [and] favourable risk/benefit profile."