Merger may give drug makers an edge with MDs

NEW YORK — Actavis PLC plans to buy Forest Laboratories Inc. for about $25 billion, making Actavis the world’s number-15 drug maker, with an unusual one-stop-shopping model giving it an edge: more face time with doctors.

Physicians, crunched for time, keep reducing how many sales representatives they see. Forest gives Actavis not just a broader product line, but also its big US sales force, which could promote a half-dozen Forest and Actavis products at each doctor visit. That probably will result in more time and more options to present to primary care doctors, compared to rival brand-name drug makers whose sales reps promote one or two drugs.

‘‘They have just figured out a way to maximize use of time’’ with doctors, WBB Securities analyst Steve Brozak said. ‘‘There’s no way big pharma can compete with this.’’


Actavis, of Dublin, calls itself a specialty pharmaceutical company but sells several hundred generic, brand-name, and nonprescription medicines generally prescribed by family doctors, from birth control pills to infection drugs. Its specialty drugs include the osteoporosis treatment Actonel, other drugs for women’s health, and dermatology and urology medicines.

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And it’s partnering with Amgen Inc. to develop five biosimilars — like generic versions of ultra-expensive biologic drugs made in living cells.

Still, Actavis needed a bigger US presence and more brand-name drugs to keep growing. New York-based Forest brings all that, including Namenda for Alzheimer’s, Saphris for schizophrenia, Linzess for chronic constipation, and Viibryd for depression.

Actavis said it will pay $26.04 in cash and a third of an Actavis share for each Forest share. The total, per-share price of $89.48 is about 25 percent more than Forest’s $71.39 closing price Friday.

Paul Bisaro, chairman and CEO of Actavis, said the combination will now have six drugs awaiting approval by the Food and Drug Administration and 10 others in late-stage patient testing, including three biologic drugs. ‘‘It pushes us up the food chain a little bit,’’ Bisaro said of the deal.


The deal, expected to close by mid-year, will give Actavis about $15 billion in combined revenue, compared with $4.66 billion in the first nine months of 2013.

The move caps an impressive run for Actavis. In 2006, it was a little Icelandic company with barely $700 million in annual revenue and big trouble with US regulators. Factories in Totowa, N.J., and Little Falls, N.J., repeatedly failed FDA inspections from 2006 through 2008, when the company recalled a heart drug.

Today’s Actavis bears little resemblance. After it made a number of smaller acquisitions, late in 2012 Bisaro engineered its $5.6 billion merger with his company at the time, Watson Pharmaceuticals. The combined company kept the Actavis name then bought Warner Chilcott in May for $8.5 billion.