During a challenging year, M&A activity in pharmaceutical markets was lower than experts estimated. Also, there were not many megadeals in Q1 and Q2 compared with 2019 (where the value of the largest deal was $99.5 billion). The biggest deals in the first half of 2020 were Thermo Fisher Scientific / Qiagen ($11.5 billion, COVID-19), Gilead Sciences / Forty Seven ($4.9 billion, oncology), Gilead Sciences / Pionyr Immunotherapeutics ($1.7 billion, oncology), Novo Nordisk / Corvidia ($2.1 billion, cardiometabolic diseases), Eli Lilly / Dermira ($1.1 billion, immunology, dermatology).
In essence, transactions worth over $21 billion were in such areas of the pharmaceutical market as: oncology (35%), immunology/dermatology (11%), COVID-19 (8%), cardiology (8%), metabolic disorders (8%), women's healthcare (6%), pulmonary diseases (5%), neurologic diseases (5%) and some other diseases (14%). It seems that in relation to developing vaccine(s) against COVID-19, companies have used models that extend beyond M&A. Thus, to develop COVID-19 drugs and conquer the market, Merck has used combined models, entering into partnership agreements with IAVI and Ridgeback and acquiring Themis.
The thing is, innovations have attracted the most attention. At the April 30 session discussion around the topic of BigPharma, Serik Zhumangarin, a member of the board for competition and antitrust regulation of the Eurasian Economic Commission, summed up that “a substantial part of the innovation and research in the market is carried out by the small start-ups and companies that are being bought up by the larger companies, which increases the concentration in the pharmaceutical market”. Capturing innovations provides the following competition benefits for buyers to become powerful players: expanded pipeline with patent-protected drugs and technologies; talent acquisition; reputation; time; increasing a company's R&D capabilities; outsourcing R&D; business expansion and access to new markets. The core problem is that in acquiring innovative nascent firms, buyers may limit the potential of innovation and technology on the market in contexts when it is advantageous for them to stifle competition (in particular, they may complete a project yet not release its 'fruits' to the market). The matter facing competition authorities focusing on M&A in terms of innovation impact is the sustainability between the free development of innovation in the market and the prevention of market power concentration that has a significant impact on access to care.
Table 1. M&A deals over $500 million (for those deals where the price is known)
Table 2. Pharmaceutical market areas
Table 3. Leading countries by deal value (for those deals where the price is known)