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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

Amy Harder, author of Generate
5 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Climate change goes mainstream in presidential debate

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty

The most notable part of Thursday’s presidential debate on climate change was the fact it was included as a topic and assumed as a fact.

The big picture: This is the first time in U.S. presidential history that climate change was a featured issue at a debate. It signals how the problem has become part of the fabric of our society. More extreme weather, like the wildfires ravaging Colorado, is pushing the topic to the front-burner.

Finally, a real debate

Photo: Morry Gash/AP

A more disciplined President Trump held back from the rowdy interruptions at tonight's debate in Nashville, while making some assertions so outlandish that Joe Biden chuckled and even closed his eyes. A Trump campaign adviser told Axios: "He finally listened." 

The result: A real debate.

Biden to Trump: "I have not taken a penny from any foreign source ever in my life"

Former VP Joe Biden pushed back Thursday against allegations from President Trump, saying he had never profited from foreign sources. "Nothing was unethical," Biden told debate moderator Kristen Welker about his son Hunter's work in Ukraine while he was vice president.

Why it matters: Earlier on Thursday, Hunter Biden's former business partner, Tony Bobulinski, released a statement saying Joe Biden's claims that he never discussed overseas business dealings with his son were "false."