Rottapharm has purchased the German company Madaus Pharma in a deal that it says represents the largest acquisition ever completed by an Italian drugmaker.

The Lonza-headquartered company is reported to be paying some 600 million euros for Madaus, which it is buying from the financial holding company Droege International Group AG. The deal, which is expected to close by the end of July, is currently awaiting authorisation from antitrust authorities.

Madaus, which is headquartered in Troisdorf, Cologne in 1919, specialises in ‘phytopharmaceuticals’ and “has developed an impressive portfolio of proprietary and licensed brands” that include the anti-inflammatory Reparil (aescin), which is extracted from horse chestnut seeds and Legalon, a treatment for liver diseases, whose active ingredient is taken from milk thistle. The firm’s sales last year reached 265 million euros and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation were 44 million euros.

Luca Rovati, Rottapharm’s chief executive, said that the transaction “is the result of a long and careful evaluation” that represents an important turning point for the firm and is “one of the most important acquisitions completed by an Italian pharmaceutical company and we are obviously proud of it.” The new entity expects to have sales of around 610 million euros and EBITDA of 151 million euros, figures which should rise over the next five years to more than one billion and 300 million euros respectively. It will be active in 65 countries and have more than 2,000 employees.

IBS drug making good progress

Rottapharm, which is best-known for its osteoarthritis treatment Dona (glucosamine), has also said that its irritable bowel syndrome drug dexloxiglumide could be filed in the next couple of years, following positive data from a Phase III long-term maintenance trial.

The news marks considerable progress for the drug given that in 2003, partner Forest Laboratories discontinued development in the USA of dexloxiglumide as a treatment of constipation predominant IBS after disappointing Phase III studies. However, the Italian company continued a separate late-stage trial in Europe, in compliance with the guidelines of the European Medicine Evaluation Agency, that were different to the requirements of the US Food and Drug Administration, and it seems to be paying off.

If approved, Rottapharm would have access to a potentially lucrative market which has just opened up wider with the recent withdrawal of Novartis’ Zelnorm (tegaserod) in the USA, Switzerland and China.