J & J Acquires Merck's Stake In Joint Venture

Ending the 22-year-old joint venture gives Merck "greater freedom to cooperate in the OTC consumer sector."

NEW YORK (AP) -- Drugmaker Merck & Co. has sold its interest in a joint venture that makes and sells over-the-counter drugs to Johnson & Johnson for $175 million, the companies said Wednesday.

The 22-year-old joint venture, Johnson & Johnson-Merck Consumer Pharmaceuticals Co., does business in the U.S. and Canada. Merck said it is selling its 50 percent stake so it can focus on the consumer products business of Schering-Plough, which Merck acquired in November 2009. It said the deal also gives it "greater freedom to cooperate in the OTC consumer sector."

The deal gives Johnson & Johnson the right to market Pepcid, Mylanta, Mylicon and other brands. Merck said the deal does not affect its rights to the Pepcid brand in countries other than the U.S. and Canada.

Johnson & Johnson said it will rename the business McNeil Consumer Pharmaceuticals Co. and said the acquisition will allow its McNeil division to expand its digestive health business.

Merck is based in Whitehouse Station, N.J. Johnson & Johnson is headquartered in New Brunswick, N.J.

Merck shares lost 20 cents to $31.94 Wednesday and picked up 26 cents to $32.20 in aftermarket trading. Shares of Johnson & Johnson fell 57 cents to $63.25 during the day session, and gained 35 cents to $63.60 aftermarket.

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