Horizon Pharma said today it bought U.S. rights to the arthritis combination therapy Vimovo® (naproxen/esomeprazole magnesium) delayed-release tablets from AstraZeneca, in a deal that will cost Horizon $40 million through next year and $7.5 million annually afterward.

AstraZeneca will retain outside-U.S. rights to Vimovo, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) co-developed by AstraZeneca and Pozen. Vimovo has been approved stateside since 2010, for indications that include relieving signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis, and for decreasing the risk of gastric ulcers in patients at risk of developing them from treatment with NSAIDs.

Horizon agreed to pay AstraZeneca $35 million up front and 10% royalties on net sales of Vimovo starting next year—subject to a minimum $5 million in 2014 royalties, and a minimum $7.5 million in annual royalties each subsequent year.

However, the deal is subject to Vimovo’s patents, owned by Pozen, remaining in effect, as well as the absence of generic forms of Viomovo on the market. And as part of the deal, Horizon assumed AstraZeneca’s right to lead an ongoing lawsuit involving the drug, and will assume all patent-related defense costs relating to the litigation, “including reimbursement for a specified amount of the cost of counsel retained by Pozen,” Pozen said in a statement.

Horizon said it expects to begin sales of Vimovo early in 2014. For the remainder of the fourth quarter of this year, AstraZeneca will continue to distribute and book revenues for Vimovo, with Horizon receiving any related net profits from AstraZeneca.

Horizon said the deal will benefit the company by accelerating its time to profitability and further expanding the company’s focus on key sales targets, namely U.S. primary care physicians.

To that end, Horizon said it plans to expand its primary care sales force from 150 to about 250 representatives. Those representatives will promote Vimovo as well as arthritis drug Duexis® (ibuproifen/famotidine) to specific sales targets, with approximately 30% eyed for both Duexis and Vimovo. The company will also expand its rheumatology specialty sales force from 25 to about 40 representatives who will promote both Vimovo and Rayos® (prednisone delayed-release tablets) to rheumatologists.

In addition, Horizon said it will include Vimovo in its Prescriptions-Made-Easy™ specialty pharmacy program to ensure patients receive the drug at a “reasonable” out-of-pocket cost, adding: “The Company expects to price Vimovo in line with Duexis and other branded NSAIDs when it begins selling Vimovo.”

“The acquisition of Vimovo is a major step forward in our strategy to leverage our business model and maximize our commercial infrastructure, and we expect it to create significant value for our shareholders,” Timothy P. Walbert, Horizon’s chairman, president, and CEO, said in a statement.

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