UK drug giant GlaxoSmithKline’s new head of consumer healthcare, John Clarke, has revealed his interest in making a bid for Boots Healthcare International, in a move aimed at boosting the firm’s consumer healthcare operations.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Mr Clarke, who will assume his new role at the firm at the end of January on the retirement of Jack Ziegler, explained “this is an area of interest for us. The idea of global brands is always attractive for us and we have developed them well.”

GSK’s consumer healthcare division currently generates around £3 billion a year out of the company’s total revenues of £20. An investment in BHI, which owns top-selling brands such as Nurofen, Strepsils and Clearasil and generated profit of £95 million in 2004, could substantially grow the division’s earnings.

In addition, Mr Clarke has indicated that if GSK successfully acquires the business, which some analysts suggest could be worth £1.3-£1.5 billion, it is likely to keep it in one piece rather than break it up into segment, notes the FT.

Furthermore, the purchase of BHI could facilitate the launch, planned for next year if approved, of its over-the-counter anti-obesity drug Xenical (orlistat). The product was licensed from Swiss drugmaker Roche last year [[13/04/05b]], and industry observers have forecast peak annual sales of $500 million.

However, GSK is not the only firm with an eye on acquiring the group; six potential buyers are reportedly circling the business, with offers currently being prepared ahead of a decision in October.

Meantime, the firm reported that Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use has reached a positive opinion for its restless legs syndrome agent Adartrel (ropinirole). If approved, the drug could become the first widely-available therapy for the condition in Europe.

“We are pleased that the CHMP agrees that Adartrel delivers benefit to patients with moderate to severe RLS who typically suffer with insomnia or have severe discomfort in their limbs,” commented Ronald Krall, senior vice president of worldwide development at the firm. “These patients do not get a restful night’s sleep and therefore the following day are exhausted, have difficulty concentrating and show reduced interest in normal daily activities. Data show that ropinirole is effective in treating the primary sensorimotor symptoms of RLS thereby reducing sleep disturbance, promoting sleep, and improving the quality of life of patients with RLS,” he added.