Hoechst, Marion Merger OKd After Reaching FTC Agreement

From Associated Press

An agreement to ensure competition for four drugs means the $7.1-billion merger of Hoechst and Marion Merrell Dow Inc. can be completed, the Federal Trade Commission said Monday.

The merger creating the world's third-largest drug company was announced in June, but had not become final pending settlement of antitrust concerns by the FTC.

Under terms of the settlement, the combined company, Hoechst Marion Roussel Inc., will have to help another drug concern, Biovail Corp., complete research on a heart medicine that will compete with Hoechst Marion's popular Cardizem CD.

Hoechst will also have to sell off three other drugs to maintain competition in those products.

Cardizem CD, originally made by Marion Merrell Dow, is used by people with high blood pressure and angina. It is one of the top 10 selling drugs in the country.

Prior to buying Marion, Hoechst had been helping Biovail develop its competing product called Tiazac.

Just before finalizing the buyout, Hoechst returned all rights to Tiazac to Biovail as a way to avoid an antitrust challenge.

But, the FTC argued this wasn't good enough. After negotiations, Hoechst agreed to FTC demands to turn over all confidential information it possessed about Tiazac and refrain from using the information. Hoechst also agreed to help Biovail get additional approvals from the Food and Drug Administration for new uses for Tiazac.

Other drugs affected by the settlement:

* Trental, sold by Hoechst, the only currently approved drug for a painful leg-cramping condition called claudication. Marion Merrell was developing Beraprost to compete.

* Marion Merrell's Pentasa, for treating gastrointestinal disease, and Rifadin, for tuberculosis. In both cases Hoechst was developing generic versions of the drugs.

In each case one of the two drugs now owned by the combined firm must be sold to an FTC-approved pharmaceutical company.

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