Japan's Astellas Pharma has agreed to sell all its over-the-counter (OTC) drug business Zepharma to Daiichi Sankyo.

Astellas said it would receive about 23.5 billion yen ($200m) in cash from the transaction, which is scheduled to close on April 13. It will also record extraordinary profit of about 20 billion yen due to the sale of the Zephama shares for the fiscal year ending March 2007.

Although it is operationally profitable, Zepharma has "not yet reached a size enough to be competitive in the Japanese OTC market," according to Astellas, and so it has decided to sell it off and concentrate on its prescription drug business.

Zepharma was established on October 1, 2004, as a joint venture between Yamanouchi Pharmaceutical and Fujisawa , which combined to form Astellas last year.

Prograf cleared for heart transplants

Meantime, the US Food and Drug Administration has approved Astellas Pharma’s immunosuppressant Prograf to prevent graft rejection among heart transplant recipients.

Prograf (tacrolimus) is already on the market to prevent graft rejection for patients receiving liver and kidney transplants, but the new indication will extend its use into the 2,000 or more heart transplants carried out in the USA each year.

It is the first new product to be approved for use in heart transplant patients in the USA in eight years.

Prograf acts by a mechanism similar to cyclosporine, another immunosuppressant used to prevent transplant rejection, said the FDA, and can be used as an alternative to cyclosporine.