As observers wait for GlaxoSmithKline to issue its financials later today, the UK-based firm has boosted its consumer healthcare business with the acquisition of Biotene, an over-the-counter treatment for xerostomia or dry mouth.

GSK is shelling out $170 million to California-based privately-held firm Laclede to get hold of the Biotene range of mouthwashes, toothpastes and gels, which had global sales in 2007 of around $50 million, up 17%. Some 65% of those sales were in the USA and the deal is expected to be completed by early 2009.

The healthcare giant says the product would fit within its existing oral care portfolio, which includes Aquafresh, Sensodyne and Poligrip. John Clarke, president of GSK Consumer Healthcare, added that the deal “is a further step towards our goal…of building and growing a diversified healthcare business”.

Dry mouth is “a significant health issue associated with chronic medical conditions that include diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome and Parkinson’s disease”, GSK notes. It adds that cancer chemotherapy or radiation treatment, “as well as any of more than 400 medications that, as a side-effect, can cause dry mouth” demonstrate the size of the market and xerostomia “is as prevalent as dental sensitivity, affecting around one in five adults”.

The deal comes days after GSK agreed to buy Bristol-Myers Squibb’s mature products business in Egypt for $210 million, another example of the firm’s desire to diversify its operations and expand in emerging markets.