Shares in Shire have dipped after the UK drugmaker posted a solid set of fourth-quarter financials that did not quite meet analyst expectations.

Net income was down to $141 million compared to $212 million for the like, year-earlier period, due in part to an increase in operating expenses but revenues were up 6% to $765.8 million. Growth was driven again by the attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder drug Adderall XR (mixed amphetamine salts), which slipped 1% to $275.1 million.

The follow-up to Adderall XR, Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine dimesylate), contributed $103.2 million to the coffers, up 57%. Vyvanse is key to the firm’s future as the older ADHD drug will face generic competition from Teva starting this April.

As for Shire’s ADHD patch product Daytrana (methylphenidate), sales fell 23% to $17.8 million, hurt by a voluntary recall of certain product batches, while revenues from Elaprase (idursulfase) for Hunter syndrome reached $74.5 million, up 30%. Turnover from Fosrenol (lanthanum carbonate) for high blood phosphate levels was up 29% to $33.8 million.

Replagal (agalsidase alfa), for the treatment of Fabry disease, contributed $44.3 million to the coffers, up 14%, though the ulcerative colitis therapy Pentasa (mesalamine) slipped 3% to $47.3 million. The firm’s newer ulcerative colitis drug Lialda/Mezavant brought in $40.7 million, an increase of 39%, while Firazyr (icatibant), for acute attacks of hereditary angioedema, which Shire gained when it bought Germany’s Jerini, had revenues of $300,000.

Chief executive Angus Russell claimed that 2009 “will see continued momentum in our business as we drive growth in existing products, pursue launches of new products and continue to develop our strong pipeline”. He added that the company is also interested in “targeted acquisitions”.

Shire has wasted no time in targeting acquisitions and this morning has announced that it is buying the global rights (excluding North Amercia and Barbados) to the instant- and extended-release versions of UCB’s ADHD drug Equasym (methylphenidate).

Under the terms of the deal, Shire is shelling out 55 million euros and notes that “small milestone payments” may be made to the Belgian drugmaker over the next couple of years depending on sales. Equasym revenues in 2008 were approximately 17 million euros.

'Solid bridge' to sell ADHD drugs in Europe
Explaining the rationale behind the deal, Shire said it will “facilitate immediate access to the European ADHD market” and establishes “a solid bridge for its other ADHD treatments outside the USA. Vyvanse, which was approved across the pond in July 2007, is in Phase III trials in Europe. As part of the deal, 20 UCB sales and sales management personnel will transfer to Shire.

For its part, UCB said that the sale is another example of concentrating its activities on diseases of the central nervous system and it comes a week after it sold worldwide rights to somatostatine for gastrointestinal bleeding to fellow Belgian firm Eumedica. Somatostatine sales in 2008 were 11.4 million euros and UCB said it is receiving “a cash consideration of an industry average sales multiple for established products”.

UCB to build biologics plant
Staying with UCB, the company announced plans to build a biologics pilot plant on its site at Braine-l'Alleud in Belgium at a cost of around 65 million euros. The plant is expected to become operational by early 2012 and around 100 new jobs should be created in the medium-term.