News Feature | May 2, 2014

Merck Looks To Sell Off $15 Billion In "Old" Drugs

By Lori Clapper

In an effort to streamline business, Merck announced it may sell off a number of its off-patent drugs, called “diversified brands”  — a move which could bring in more than $15 billion, according to Reuters. 

These off-patent, or diversified brands, are mostly sold in emerging markets, and the potential sale of the meds could be of interest to generic drug makers. For example, generic pharmaceutical manufacturers Mylan, Valeant and Actavis have all considered bidding on Pfizer's established products unit. It’s also possible that all three companies would have interest in Merck’s mature drugs as well.

Merck sources declined to comment because this matter has not officially gone public.

Merck is also in the midst of shedding its $14 billion consumer healthcare unit in an effort to streamline business and turn its focus towards other high-growth areas.

The company is not alone in its efforts to hone in on its core strengths, however. In fact, it seems to be jumping on the streamlining-business bandwagon with several other key players in the pharma industry. Merck joins a global throng of name-brand pharma companies looking to re-focus business on their core strengths. The growing list includes:

  • Sanofi: The company is currently marketing a portfolio of its older drugs, in a deal potentially worth up to $8 billion
  •  GlaxoSmithKline: In 2013, the company sold off two of its cardiovascular drugs to Aspen Pharmacare and a variety of consumer medicines in 2012
  • Pfizer: Expected to auction off its established products business
  • AstraZeneca: Announced last week it could put its anti-infective and neurosciences units on the auction block for a possible $15 billion

Reuters reports that high-profile pharma companies “have shown new willingness to consider large asset swaps with rivals to exit weaker businesses and bolster core areas where they are already top players.”