Teva Chairman’s Other Drug Firm Buys Startup That Could Compete With Teva

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Teva's logistics center in Shoham, IsraelCredit: Bloomberg

In a move that raises a possible conflict of interest, biochemical drug company Opko Health announced over the weekend it is acquiring Israeli startup Inspiro. Opko is headed by the chairman of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Phillip Frost.

Inspiro develops medical equipment for treating respiratory diseases. In addition to serving as chairman of Teva, Israel’s largest pharmaceutical company and the world’s biggest generic drug maker, Frost is chairman and CEO of Opko.

Frost has said Opko is only involved in industry segments where Teva has no interest, but full details of the transaction have not been disclosed.

Inspiro calls its Inspiromatic inhaler a better way to deliver medication to patients with lung problems using a dry powder.

“We are pleased to add this next generation inhaler to Opko’s growing product portfolio,” Frost said in a statement by Opko. “We expect this innovative device to play a valuable role in the improvement of therapy for asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis and other respiratory diseases.”

News of Opko’s acquisition of Inspiro comes less than two months after an advisory committee of the European Medicines Agency recommended that the agency let Teva market DuoResp Spiromax, a drug for treating asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, via a dry-powder inhaler. Like Teva’s device, Inspiro’s Inspiromatic inhaler is designed to treat asthma and COPD.

Opko said Inspiro’s expertise in inhalers and injections would complement Opko’s stable of treatments in those areas.

Inspiro was in acquisition talks with another multinational firm and approached Opko on its own, Opko said in its statement. It said it would be pleased to cooperate with Teva and allow it to use Inspiro’s technologies and products if it wishes.

Frost has background in the inhalers business as the former controlling shareholder of Ivax, which was sold to Teva in 2006 for $7.4 billion. That deal gave Teva entrée into the treatment of respiratory disease and made Frost Teva’s largest shareholder.

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