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Lilly Acquires Migraine Therapy Company in $960M Deal

Person with migraine

(R. Nial Bradshaw, Flickr)

19 January 2017. Drug maker Eli Lilly and Company is acquiring CoLucid Pharmaceuticals, a developer of treatments for migraine pain and associated symptoms. The deal is expected to bring CoLucid Pharma shareholders a total of $960 million.

CoLucid Pharma’s lead product is lasmiditan, a drug to treat migraine. Migraine is a neurological syndrome causing severe headaches along with nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. In some cases, migraines are preceded by warning episodes called aura including flashes of light, blind spots, or tingling in arms and legs. The web site Migraine.com estimates 37 million people in the U.S. suffer from migraines, and cites World Health Organization data indicating migraines affect 18 percent of American women and 7 percent of men.

Lasmiditan stimulates receptors for the protein 5-HT1F in the trigeminal nerve pathway system in the brain, where activating these receptors blocks migraine pain signals through the pathway. Unlike many other migraine therapies, lasmiditan does not constrict blood vessels, making it potentially more suitable for individuals with cardiovascular conditions. The company notes that migraine is highly correlated with and considered a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

CoLucid Pharma, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is testing lasmiditan in clinical trials as a migraine treatment. In September 2016, the company reported results of a late-stage clinical trial among more than 2,200 individuals with migraine experienced either with or without associated aura. The drug was tested in 2 doses against a placebo. The results show more recipients of lasmiditan were likely to achieve a full 2 hours without pain after taking the drug, compared to participants receiving the placebo. Lasmiditan recipients were also more likely to be free of secondary migraine symptoms, such as nausea and sensitivity to light.

The company says 2 other clinical trials are underway or planned for lasmiditan. One trial is a late-stage study at 140 sites in the U.S., U.K., and Germany, where participants will include individuals with risk factors for cardiovascular disease. A second trial is a study of long-term safety and efficacy of lasmiditan, as well as its effects on functional outcomes and disability.

Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis is acquiring all shares of CoLucid Pharma and paying its shareholders $46.50 per share, which according to industry newsletter FirstWord Pharma is 33 percent higher than CoLucid’s closing share price on 17 January. The total amount paid in the acquisition is about $960 million.

Lilly is no stranger to lasmiditan. The company first discovered the compound, but when its priorities changed in 2005, lasmiditan was licensed to CoLucid Pharma for development. In the 12 years since that licensing deal, Lilly’s corporate strategy changed again, making CoLucid and lasmiditan takeover targets. Lasmiditan is expected to complement Lilly’s other pain drugs in development: galcanezumab in late-stage trials for cluster headache and migraine, and tanezumab for osteoarthritis, lower back and cancer pain, in development with Pfizer.

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Disclosure: The author owns shares in Pfizer.

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