The US Federal Trade Commission has voted unanimously to approve Barr Pharmaceuticals’ acquisition of Croatian group Pliva for around $2.5 billion, but Barr will have to sell off some product lines to avoid antitrust issues.

The FTC maintains that the combination of the two companies would have eliminated current or future competition between Barr and Pliva in certain markets for generic drugs treating depression, high blood pressure and treatments for haemorrhagic stroke, as well as in the market for organ preservation solutions, thereby increasing the likelihood that consumers would pay more for vital products.

As a result, Barr is required to sell its generic antidepressant trazodone and its blood pressure medication triamterene plus hydrochlorothiazide, and has also been told to divest either Pliva's or its own generic nimodipine for use in treating ruptured blood vessels in the brain. Finally, Barr is called on to dispose of Pliva's branded organ preservation solution Custodial.

"Preserving competition in the markets for pharmaceuticals and other health care products to the benefit of US consumers is core to the FTC's mission, " stated Jeffrey Schmidt, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Competition, adding: "the Commission's action...furthers that mission by requiring divestitures that will prevent US consumers from paying higher prices for these life-saving products after the proposed transaction.".

In its statement on the situation, Barr says that these are "minimal divestures," and that it expected the transaction to proceed to a close later today.