Eli Lilly is to buy Johnson & Johnson's animal health unit in Europe, expanding its businesses outside the generically-challenged pharmaceuticals sector.

Lilly's Elanco unit is buying Janssen Animal Health which is headquartered in Beerse, Belgium and targets disease segments in pets and livestock, especially swine and poultry. Financial details of the purchase have not been disclosed, which gives Elanco a portfolio of about 50 marketed animal health products.

Jeff Simmons, Elanco's president, said the deal will "further expand our European presence, bolster our growing portfolio of companion animal medicines and diversify our food animal portfolio with new swine and poultry products". It is already a considerable business, the world's fourth-biggest in animal health , and employs more than 2,300 people worldwide; sales last year reached $1.4 billion, up 15%.

The deal comes at a time when Lilly is facing some significant patent expiries, notably on its antidepressant/fibromyalgia blockbuster Cymbalta (duloxetine) and the antipsychotic Zyprexa (olanzapine).