BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Yet another Vivus (VVUS - Get Report) takeover rumor circulating through the market Tuesday got me thinking: When do most biotech and drug takeovers happen? Is it possible that Vivus -- which will hear from FDA in just 13 days about the approval decision for its weight-loss drug Qnexa -- could be right now in secret negotiations with a Big Pharma suitor?
Not likely if history is any guide. Biotech and small drug companies are rarely acquired immediately before or after a drug approval or even during the initial phase of a new drug launch.
An acquisition of Vivus now, with FDA's approval decision on Qnexa looming on April 17, would be an exception to the biotech takeover rule. The same likely applies to Arena Pharmaceuticals (ARNA - Get Report) and Discovery Labs (DSCO - Get Report), both of which are in a similar situation as Vivus and have been the subject of recent takeover speculation.
Looking back at past deals, biotech companies are typically acquired while experimental drugs are still in mid- to late-stage clinical trials; or well after a drug's approval when the commercial opportunity is more easily quantified.Examples of the former include the most recent hepatitis C-focused takeovers: Roche (RHHBY) buying Anadys Pharmaceuticals, Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY - Get Report) for Inhibitex and Gilead Sciences (GILD) acquiring Pharmasset. Other examples of deals where Big Pharma took out smaller biotech/drug firms to bolster their R&D pipelines include Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) buying Cougar Biotech, Amgen (AMGN) acquiring Micromet, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) buying Sirtris and Pfizer (PFE) for Esperion Therapeutics.