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Expand chart
Data: 2019 EY M&A Firepower report and Axios reporting; Chart: Axios Visuals

The pharmaceutical industry has already shelled out more than $200 billion for acquisitions during the first half of 2019, capped off yesterday by AbbVie's $63 billion buyout offer for Allergan.

The big picture: This year's deal-making has already surpassed 2017 and 2018, as drug companies plan for patent losses and jockey for lucrative assets that are advancing in clinical trials, including gene therapies.

Driving the news: The AbbVie-Allergan combination makes 2019 one of the busiest for pharmaceutical deals in the past several years.

The running theme in almost all of these deals: scoop up cancer drugs and gene therapies, which command the highest prices.

Yes, but: AbbVie-Allergan is different. Wall Street has been down on both companies, and this buyout is focused on Allergan's aesthetics drugs, like Botox. It's largely about protecting economic moats, based on AbbVie CEO Richard Gonzalez's comments.

The big question: The Federal Trade Commission is increasing its scrutiny of pharma mergers, including BMS-Celgene and Roche-Spark. So, don't assume every deal will get clean antitrust approval.

  • "There will be some divestment" in the AbbVie-Allergan combo because the companies have some overlap with gastrointestinal medicines, Bernstein analyst Ronny Gal wrote to investors.

The bottom line: These companies have been sitting on piles of cash, and now they want to spend that money to get new returns for their investors — all while patients stare down the barrel of unaffordable medications and even more expensive future treatments.

Go deeper: Why pharma companies merge

Go deeper

UN Security Council meeting on Israel-Gaza as fighting enters 7th day

Smoke billows from a fire following Israeli airstrikes on multiple targets in Gaza on May 16. Photo: Mohammed Abed/AFP via Getty Images

The United Nations Security Council was preparing to meet Sunday, as the aerial bombardment between Israel and Hamas between entered a seventh day.

The latest: Four Palestinians died in airstrikes early Sunday, as Israeli forces bombed the home of Gaza's Hamas chief, Yehya al-Sinwar, per Reuters.

6 hours ago - World

In photos: Protests in U.S., across the world over Israeli–Palestinian conflict

A protest march in support of Palestinians near the Washington monument in Washington, D.C. on May 15. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Thousands of people rallied across the U.S. and the world Saturday following days of violence in Gaza and Israel that's killed at least 145 Palestinians, including 41 children, and eight Israelis, per AP.

The big picture: Most demonstrations were in support of Palestinians. There were tense scenes between pro-Israeli government protesters and pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Winnipeg, Canada, and Leipzig, Germany, but no arrests were made, CBS News and DW.com report.

Updated 14 hours ago - World

Biden in call with Netanyahu raises concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza

Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

President Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Saturday and raised concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza and the bombing of the building that housed AP and other media offices, according to Israeli officials.

The big picture: At least 140 Palestinians, including dozens of children, have been killed in Gaza since fighting between Israel and Hamas began Monday, according to Palestinian health officials. Nine people, including two children, have been killed by Hamas rockets in Israel.