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Takeda to buy URL Pharma for $800M upfront

The Associated Press

Japanese drugmaker Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. said Wednesday it will pay $800 million upfront to buy the privately held U.S. gout treatment maker URL Pharma Inc.

The deal also may include future performance-based payments. URL is headquartered in Philadelphia, and its lead product is Colcrys, which is used to treat gout flare-ups. The treatment brought in more than $430 million in revenue last year. Takeda expects the deal to close within 60 days.

Gout develops when excess uric acid crystallizes and builds up in joints and tendons, causing intense pain and swelling. In healthy people, uric acid is dissolved in the blood and excreted from the body in urine. Many patients experience their first attack of gout in the big toe. The disease can progress, causing deformities.

Takeda is Japan's largest drugmaker, but most of its sales come from the United States. Its product portfolio includes the diabetes treatment Actos, which loses patent protection later this year. It also includes Uloric, a once-daily drug that lowers blood uric acid levels in adults with gout.

Jefferies analyst Naomi Kumagai said in a research note the deal was puzzling. The analyst noted that Actos will face competition from cheaper generic products starting in August, so Takeda needs more products or drugs in late-stage development. But she also wrote that she isn't sure "how much value will be brought from the enhancement of the gout franchise."

A Takeda representative did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment.