Switzerland’s Novartis says it has agreed to pay some $660 million dollars in cash for Bristol-Myers Squibb’s US and Canadian over-the-counter business, which includes the $160 million-a-year pain medicine, Excedrin (acetaminophen).

Novartis is currently one of the world’s top OTC companies, raking in $2 billion in revenues in 2004. The firm’s OTC offerings rank second in Europe and this latest deal is clearly testament to Novartis’ desire to beef up its offering in the all-important US and Canadian markets. In a statement, the Swiss company said the purchase of the OTC products, which had combined 2004 sales of $258 million, would give it “greater critical mass” in the US OTC field.

B-MS said it was planning to divest its US and Canadian consumer medicines business earlier this year [[13/01/05a]]. At the time, GlaxoSmithKline and some private equity firms as well as Johnson & Johnson and Bayer were mooted as possible suitors, with industry observers speculating that the unit could come with a $1billion price tag [[05/01/05d]].

Other brands included in the transaction are the Keri line of skin-care products, 4-Way (phenylephrine) nasal decongestant and the Vagistat (tioconazole) antifungal, and Novartis also gains the rights to the US OTC brands in Latin America, Europe, Middle East and Africa, where sales topped $16 million last year. The deal is subject to customary regulatory approvals and is expected to close by the end of the third quarter.