Merck (NYSE:MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, and Astellas US LLC ("Astellas"), the U.S. subsidiary of Astellas Pharma Inc. (Tokyo:4503) today announced that they have entered into an agreement under which Merck, through a subsidiary, will acquire the exclusive rights to develop and commercialize the investigational intravenous formulation of vernakalant (vernakalant i.v.) in Canada, Mexico and the United States from Astellas. Vernakalant i.v. is currently approved in more than 10 European countries for rapid conversion of recent onset atrial fibrillation (AF) to sinus rhythm.
“With this agreement, Merck has secured worldwide rights to vernakalant i.v. This is an important step as we seek to expand access for patients in need.”
"Atrial fibrillation represents a large and growing unmet medical need," said Dr. Michael Mendelsohn, senior vice president, franchise head, cardiovascular and atherosclerosis research at Merck. "With this agreement, Merck has secured worldwide rights to vernakalant i.v. This is an important step as we seek to expand access for patients in need."
Under the terms of the agreement, Merck will pay Astellas an undisclosed upfront fee. In addition, Astellas will be eligible for milestone payments associated with development and regulatory approval as well as sales thresholds achieved in Canada, Mexico and the United States.
"We continue to strengthen our capabilities in core therapeutic areas and steadily make progress on our vision of becoming a Global Category Leader," said Masao Yoshida, President and CEO, Astellas US LLC. "In reviewing the priorities of our North American development programs, Astellas has decided to divest its rights for vernakalant to Merck."
In October 2003, Astellas US LLC was granted an exclusive license to develop and commercialize vernakalant i.v. in Canada, Mexico and the United States by Cardiome Pharma Corp. In April 2009, Merck, through a subsidiary, was granted exclusive rights to vernakalant i.v. outside of Canada, Mexico and the United States for rapid conversion of acute atrial fibrillation to normal heart rhythm.