Johnson & Johnson has won the race to acquire Pfizer's consumer healthcare unit, reportedly beating rival offers from GlaxoSmithKline and Reckitt Benckiser.

In February, Pfizer said that it was 'exploring strategic alternatives' for the Pfizer Consumer Healthcare unit, including retaining the business, selling it or spinning it out as an independent company. Its product range includes Listerine mouthwash and Benadryl for colds and allergies. The division reported sales of $3.9 billion last year.

J&J plans to fund the acquisition out of cash. "This acquisition builds upon our broad base in health care products and our leadership objectives in the consumer, pharmaceutical and medical devices and diagnostics markets," said the firm's chairman and CEO William Weldon.

Under the terms of the transaction, J&J will also gain rights to over-the-counter (OTC) versions of Pfizer's Zyrtec (cetirizine), currently available on prescription in the USA but due to switch after its patent expires next year.