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Novartis acquires key drugs portfolio

The painkiller Excedrin is one of the most significant products in the Bristol-Myers range (Bryan F. Peterson/CORBIS)

Swiss pharmaceuticals firm Novartis is to strengthen its over-the-counter business by acquiring the rights to produce and market a North American product range.

The deal with New York-based firm Bristol-Myers Squibb is worth $660 million (SFr850 million).

The drugs portfolio includes the widely used painkiller, Excedrin, which had US sales last year of $160 million.

Novartis said it was buying the non-prescription drug range to give it greater "critical mass" in the US market. The brands it is acquiring had combined 2004 sales of $258 million.

The Basel-based firm is one of the leading manufacturers of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs in the world, and is second in Europe. The company saw significant growth in its OTC business last year and recorded revenue of $2 billion.

First US painkiller

The acquisition of the Bristol-Myers Squibb range provides Novartis with its first painkiller tablet for adults in the US. Other brands included in the deal are Comtrex cold and flu products and No-Doz anti-drowsiness tablets.

Novartis’s existing OTC drugs include Voltaren for inflammation, the antifungal lotion Lamisil and Theraflu for coughs and colds.

The transaction still needs the approval of regulatory authorities.

On Thursday, Novartis announced that its net profit rose by 12 per cent for the first six months of this year – a record result.

The company added that it expected the good results to continue for the rest of the year.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Price paid for Bristol-Myers Squibb range: $660 million (SFr850 million).
Combined brand sales: $258 million (2004).
Most important drug in the range: Excedrin (painkiller)
Novartis employees: 81,000.
Employees in OTC business: 4,050.

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