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AstraZeneca pays $1.3bn for gout-buster drug

The burst of M&A activity in the pharmaceuticals industry continued yesterday when AstraZeneca announced a $1.26bn (£783m) deal to buy the US company Ardea Biosciences, which is working on a new medicine to battle gout.

Astra, Britain's second-biggest drugmaker, is facing a patent cliff, as lucrative blockbusters including its antipsychotic Seroquel begin to face generic competition, while several medicines in its pipeline have failed at late-stage trials.

Shareholders will hope the deal to buy California's Ardea for $32 a share – 54 per cent above its closing share price on Friday – will bolster Astra's prospects. Ardea's Lesinurad is in late-stage development as a potential treatment for chronic gout, which is expected to affect almost 17 million people by 2019.

David Brennan, AstraZeneca's chief executive, said: "The Ardea team has done a great job developing Lesinurad along with a promising next-generation gout programme. These compounds have real potential to benefit patients."