Consumer goods behemoth Procter & Gamble is on the verge of selling its pharmaceuticals unit and is in advanced talks with several parties, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The newspaper cites people “familiar with the matter” as saying that Warner Chilcott and the private equity group Cerberus Capital Management are interested in the drugs division. The sources claim that the latter could be worth about $3 billion.

A deal would not be a surprise as P&G hired Goldman Sachs to help the company identify potential buyers for its pharmaceuticals. At the end of last year, the company revealed it had stopped investing in new drug development and would consider divesting some of its key pharma brands.

The WSJ says that Cerberus had proposed buying the division and setting it up as a standalone business. It adds that a deal could be concluded by the end of the summer.

P&G’s healthcare unit posted $14.6 billion in sales and $2.5 billion in net income for 2008. However most of that comes from products such as the over-the-counter version of AstraZeneca's antiulcerant Prilosec (omeprazole) and Pepto-Bismol for heartburn and upset stomachs, while sales of pharmaceuticals only accounted for around $2 billion. Its leading pharma treatment is the osteoporosis drug Actonel (risedronate), marketed with Sanofi-Aventis.