AstraZeneca splashes out

DRUG firm AstraZeneca has snapped up the rights to an experimental anti-depressant to boost its line-up of new medicines and lift its position in that area of the drugs market.<br /><br />AstraZeneca, UK&rsquo;s second-largest pharmaceutical company, said it struck a $1.24bn (&pound;749m) licence deal with US biotechnology group Targacept for its TC-5214 drug for major depressive disorder (MDD).<br /><br />MDD affects about 42m people&nbsp; and the global anti-depressant market is worth more than $20bn.<br /><br />AstraZeneca has less presence in depression drugs than its rivals and needs new drugs to replace older ones like heartburn treatment Nexium.<br /><br />TC-5214 is in the final stages of development but should be ready to be filed for approval in 2012, just as AstraZeneca&rsquo;s $4.5bn depression drug Seroquel faces challenges to its patent.<br /><br />Analysts believe TC-5214 sales could top $1bn a year if it passes trials.<br /><br />AstraZeneca chief executive David Brennan said: &ldquo;The opportunity to improve treatment in depression is a large one, both commercially and in terms of benefits for patients.&rdquo;<br /><br />The latest tie-up represents a deepening of relations between AstraZeneca and Targacept. <br /><br />The two companies already have a deal on cognitive disorders dating back to 2005.