Pfizer and Mylan reportedly near merger deal for low-priced drugs

Formal agreement could be announced Monday

By Jackie Wattles, CNN Business

(CNN) - One company makes Xanax and Viagra. The other makes the popular EpiPen drug for people with allergies. Now they may be close to merging.

The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that pharma giants Pfizer and Mylan are nearing a deal that could create a global powerhouse in the low-price drug market. A formal agreement could be announced as soon as Monday, the paper reported, citing unnamed sources familiar with the discussions.

Neither Pfizer nor Mylan responded to requests for comment from CNN Business on Saturday.

Under the terms reportedly under consideration in the stock deal, Pfizer would spin off its Upjohn business, which runs a portfolio of drugs that are no longer protected by patents, and combine the firm with Mylan, which manufactures generic and name-brand drugs.

Mylan shareholders would own a little over 40% of the new group and Pfizer shareholders the rest, the Journal reported, and Pfizer would net about $12 billion from a new debt sale.

Both drugmakers recently lost exclusive rights to manufacture drugs that were big money makers for the companies. Erectile dysfunction drug Viagra brought in an estimated $1.4 billion in annual sales for Pfizer before Teva Pharmaceuticals introduced a generic version of the pill in 2017 that quickly ate up market share.

The first generic competitor to Mylan's EpiPen, the emergency treatment for allergic reactions, gained FDA approval last year. EpiPens were added to the FDA's drug shortage list two years after Mylan increased the price of the product by more than 400%, leading to public outrage.

Other drugs in Pfizer's Upjohn portfolio include anxiety medication Xanax, depression drug Zoloft, and Lipitor, which treats high cholesterol. Upjohn reported a multimillion drop in sales during the first quarter.

If the merger deal goes through, a Pfizer executive would become CEO of the joint venture, Mylan's chairman would become executive chairman, but current Mylan CEO Heather Bresch would exit the firm, according to the Journal.

Pfizer, one of the largest drugmakers in world, is separately working to expand its portfolio of name brand drugs, and last month the company agreed to spend $11 billion to buy Array BioPharma, a small venture that is developing potentially lucrative cancer treatment drugs.

Pfizer is also launching a joint venture with GlaxoSmithKline that will have an estimated $12.7 billion in annual sales. That deal, expected to close in the second half of this year, will bring together Pfizer's big over-the-counter products like Centrum and Caltrate with GSK's top brands, including Excedrin and Nicorette.

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