BRUSSELS (AP) -- France's Sanofi-Aventis SA must sell off medicines in eastern Europe to win EU antitrust approval to buy a Czech generic drug maker, the European Commission said Wednesday.
The French pharmaceutical company is paying euro1.8 billion ($2.3 billion) for Zentiva to broaden its drug portfolio as patents for top-selling medicines expire.
EU antitrust regulators said the company would sell off 15 drugs in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Estonia to eliminate competition problems.
It said there was a risk that the deal would have reduced choice or hiked prices for hospitals, patients and the governments in these countries.
Sanofi-Aventis has agreed to sell off its rights to the digestion remedy Maalox in Romania, the anti-diarrhea drug Ercefuryl in the Czech Republic and its blood circulation medicine Trental in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Estonia.
Zentiva will also sell off some eastern European rights to sleeping pills and drugs treating digestion problems, liver disease, heart disease and prostate problems.
The company focuses on making cheaper versions of medicines developed by other pharmaceutical businesses after their exclusive patents run out.
Zentiva is Sanofi-Aventis' first acquisition since the French company was formed out of the August 2004 takeover of Aventis by rival Sanofi-Synthelabo.