Bristol-Myers Squibb has confirmed that it plans to divest its US and Canadian consumer medicines business and says it will be contacting prospective buyers over the coming weeks.

Speculation abounded last week that the US giant was planning to sell the unit, which includes the Excedrin line of painkillers, for around $1 billion dollars [[05/01/05d]]. At the time, insiders pointed the finger at GlaxoSmithKline and some private equity firms as well as Johnson & Johnson and Bayer as potential suitors for the unit, which brought in $240 million in sales in 2003.

B-MS has not given a timeline for when it hopes a deal to be finalised, but says it plans to keep hold of it consumer arms in Japan, China, Latin America, Europe, Middle East and Africa. “These businesses remain an important part of the company’s pharmaceutical business within each region,” it said in a statement.

B-MS is in the midst of a prolonged period of slowing sales as it contends with a raft of patent expirations on several key products, as well as heightened competition from branded rivals [[01/11/04c]]. It recently sold its cancer therapeutics network as part of a bid to concentrate its efforts on its product pipeline and newer products where it sees greatest growth potential [[15/12/04b]]. The company is expecting the anticipated 2005 and 2006 sales declines to be more or less offset by newer products, with growth set to return in 2007 [[14/09/04a]].