Bayer announced today that it will acquire Merck's non-prescription and consumer care business for $14.2 billion, a move that will make Bayer the second biggest drug-maker in the world after Johnson & Johnson. If approved by regulators, the deal should be completed later this year.
Merck's consumer care products include wildly popular over-the-counter products like Claritin allergy medication, Coppertone sunscreen, and Dr. Scholl's foot products. Bayer already owns plenty of other valuable brands, like Aleve, Alka-Seltzer, and One-A-Day vitamins, and of course, their own aspirin products. (And might also be partly responsible for the decline in bees, but that's another story.)
Bayer CEO Marjin Dekkers said the sale "marks a major milestone on our path towards global leadership in the attractive non-prescription medicines business." Merck reported that the deal will allow them to spend more funds on research and development. The two companies also said that they will work together to develop new cardiovascular medication.
According to the New York Times, the deal is the latest in a string of high-profile pharmaceutical mergers:
Last month, the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis and its British rival GlaxoSmithKline agreed to swap more than $20 billion in assets, including combining the Novartis’s over-the-counter pharmaceutical business with Glaxo’s consumer drug business... The hedge fund led by the activist investor William A. Ackman and the health care company Valeant Pharmaceuticals have teamed up on a $45.6 billion bid for Allergan, the maker of Botox... And Pfizer , the maker of best-selling drugs like Lipitor and Viagra, continues to pursue AstraZeneca.
The Associated Press notes that companies like Merck have suffered from heavy competition from generic drugs and are restructuring to try to recoup costs. And according to a report by McKinsey, their plan could very well work:
Conventional wisdom holds that large mergers have destroyed value in the pharmaceutical industry. Market commentators insist that these deals don’t work, that the challenges of large-scale integration unnecessarily disrupt the organization and critical programs, and that research and development productivity suffers. These critiques have some merit but ignore larger points: megamergers have created significant value for shareholders, and some of these deals have been critical for the longer-term sustainability of acquirers.
Good luck, Bayer. Just don't let our headaches become victims of the pain-killer monopoly.