Pharma ETFs: Mergers & Deals Remain In Focus

Mergers, acquisitions and deals continue to take center-stage in the pharma sector. While 2014 turned out to be one of the most active years in the pharma sector where mergers and acquisitions (M&As) and licensing agreements are concerned, the trend continues this year as well. Major deals include the ones involving Actavis – Allergan, Shire-NPS Pharmaceuticals, Endo – Auxilium, Valeant – Salix, and Pfizer-Hospira. (Read: S&P 500 ETF vs. ex-sector ETFs)

Meanwhile, we expect small bolt-on acquisitions to continue. In-licensing activities and collaborations for the development of pipeline candidates have also increased significantly. Several pharma companies are focusing on in-licensing mid-to-late stage pipeline candidates that look promising, instead of developing a product from scratch, which involves a lot of funds and time. 

Therapeutic areas attracting a lot of interest include central nervous system disorders, diabetes and immunology/inflammation. The hepatitis C virus market is also attracting a lot of attention. Another lucrative area is immuno-oncology as these therapies have the potential to change the treatment paradigm for cancer — they basically use the natural capability of the patient’s own immune system to fight the cancer. Major players in this field include Bristol-Myers (BMY), AstraZeneca (AZN), Merck (MRK) and Roche (RHHBY). Deals targeting immuno-oncology are being inked by companies like Pfizer, Merck KGaA, Bristol-Myers, AstraZeneca and Incyte.
Restructuring activities are also gaining momentum as large pharma companies are looking to cut costs and streamline their operations. Most of these companies are re-evaluating their pipelines and discontinuing programs which do not have a favorable risk-benefit profile. (Read: Breakthorugh Biotch ETF on Cancer Treatments)
Another recent trend is the divestment/monetization of non-core assets so that the companies may focus on their core areas of expertise. Companies like Pfizer, UCB, Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and AstraZeneca have all been a part of this trend. Biosimilars are also a focus area. Pfizer’s acquisition of Hospira will give it a strong position in the biosimilars market. Companies like Merck and Novartis are involved in the development of biosimilars as well – in fact, Novartis’ Sandoz was the first company to gain approval for a biosimilar in the U.S. which was launched recently. 
New products are steadily gaining traction and contributing significantly to sales and so far in 2015, the FDA has approved 22 new molecular entities (NMEs) and biological products. Some of the important new product approvals this year include Pfizer’s cancer treatment, Ibrance and Novartis’ psoriasis treatment, Cosentyx.
Meanwhile, pharma companies with a strong presence in international markets will feel the pressure of the strengthening dollar in 2015. (Read:
Pharma ETFs in Focus
Highlighted below are some pharma ETFs – ETFs present a low-cost and convenient way to get a diversified exposure to the sector.
Powershares Dynamic Pharmaceuticals ETF (PJP – ETF report)

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Author: Travis Esquivel

Travis Esquivel is an engineer, passionate soccer player and full-time dad. He enjoys writing about innovation and technology from time to time.

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