The US Federal Trade Commission has cleared Novartis’ proposed acquisition of Eon Labs, on the condition that the Swiss giant divests three of its generic products to a competitor.

Novartis is required to divest all the assets necessary to manufacture and market generic desipramine hydrochloride tablets for the treatment of depression, the muscle relaxant orphenadrine citrate extended release tablets, and rifampin oral capsules, which are used in the treatment of tuberculosis, in the US to Amide Pharmaceutical. The Swiss giant says that the divestments are not material to its operations, noting that sales of these drugs totaled $5 million dollars in 2004. “The proposed acquisition would cause significant anticompetitive harm to US consumers in the markets for these three generic drugs,” said Susan Creighton, director of the FTC’s bureau of competition. “The commission’s order effectively remedies this problem by requiring divestitures, to a well-established company, that provide the competition Eon otherwise would have provided.”

Novartis said in February that it was planning to buy Eon Labs and Germany’s Hexal for a total of 5.7 billion euros, as part of plans to become the world’s biggest generics company [[21/02/05b]]. The European Union cleared the Hexal buy earlier this year, with the Swiss firm agreeing to sell off certain pharmaceutical products in Poland, Denmark and Germany to remedy the European Commission’s competition concerns [[31/05/05c]].