Horse Pharm: Will Merial’s Move to Boehringer Ingelheim Create a New Global #1 Equine Pharmaceutical Giant?

Just a year ago today, The Jurga Report carried the news that international pharmaceutical giant Bayer had sold off its equine products to Merial, a division of the French super-giant firm, Sanofi. 

That move sent two products well-known to many horse owners–the injectable joint medication Legend and the EPM medication Marquis–to a new home, where they would join such horsehold-familiar products as Gastrogard for equine ulcers, Eqvalan and Zimectrin wormers and the relatively new but popular anti-inflammatory Equioxx. Horse owners may be less aware that several vaccines popular for immunization against rabies, West Nile Virus, and Potomac Horse Fever are part of Merial.

What horse owner doesn’t write a check for at least one Merial product in the course of a year?

And anyone who owns a dog or cat is probably familiar with Merial’s FrontLine products for flea control, or the company’s heartworm preventative, Heartgard. Merial is also active in veterinary public health, particularly in the immunological control of foot and mouth disease and blue tongue virus.

Merial looks like a winner.

But it turns out that even a successful firm like Merial is a chess piece in the big pharmaceutical game.

Yesterday, Merial’s website announced that it would move from its French parent to a German one: Merial will become part of Boehringer Ingelheim. In return, a human medicine division of Boehringer will move to Sanofi. Merial was valued at 11.4 billion Euros, or approximately $12.5 billion US dollars.

That’s a lot of Gastrogard.

According to Sanofi projections, the addition of Merial sales to Boehringer will make the German firm the world leader in equine pharmaceuticals, with about US$6.5 million global sales in horse-related products. Boehringer would also leap to #1 in swine and small animal pharmaceutical sales.

Boehringer is currently the sixth largest animal health pharmaceutical firm; its veterinary product division’s headquarters are in Hannover, Germany, with US offices in St Joseph, Missouri.

“BI” markets the Vetera and Calvenza lines of vaccines for horses, and is particularly well-known as the exclusive licensee of Prascend, the FDA-approved medication prescribed for older horses with pars pituitary intermedia dysfunction (PPID), commonly known as equine Cushing’s disease. BI also markets Ventipulmin syrup for respiratory infection.

Merial wasn’t technically offered for sale; the deal between the two huge firms was privately transacted. By acquiring Merial, Boehringer will become the second largest animal health firm in the world, behind only Zoetis, formerly the animal health division of Pfizer. For the equine market, Zoetis makes many worming medications, including feedthrough Strongid C2X, as well as vaccines for equine influenza and West Nile Virus, and the sedative Dormosedan.

As with most big transactions, the companies estimate it will take a year for the deal to be completed.

Boehringer’s press release stated that the Merial base in Lyon, France would continue to operate.

According to the New York Times, Merial expects to post sales of €2.5 billion in 2015, employs 6,600 workers worldwide, and conducts business in more than 150 countries. Equine products are a small part of its business.

According to Arlene Weintraub, writing for Fierce Animal Health, Merial was formed in 1997 as a joint venture of Merck and Sanofi, which was then known as Rhône Mérieux. Sanofi later became the sole owner of Merial. She also reported that Merial’s sales had increased 14.5% in the second quarter of this year and that current Sanofi CEO Olivier Brandicourt had previously been a Pfizer executive involved in the spinoff of Zoetis as a separate entity devoted solely to animal health.

Elsewhere in the industry, #2 animal pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly told stockholders last week that that firm’s animal division, Elanco, would become a freestanding entity next year, although it did not say that the division would be sold. In 2015, Elanco, headquartered in Indiana, purchased Novartis Animal Health. Elanco employs 7,000 people in 40 countries.

Read the corporate press releases describing the proposed changes for Merial:

Boehringer Ingelheim website

Merial website

Sanofi website




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