Lilly divests U.S. animal health assets to Virbac ahead of Novartis deal

French drugmaker Virbac said Monday it would pick up two products marketed by Novartis ($NVS) Animal Health in the U.S.--the parasiticides Sentinel Flavor Tabs and Sentinel Spectrum--which Eli Lilly ($LLY) has agreed to divest in advance of its acquisition of Novartis's animal products unit. Lilly reached the agreement with Virbac in connection with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's review of its acquisition of Novartis Animal Health, according to a press release issued by Virbac.

The two Sentinel products are expected to bring in between $90 million and $100 million in sales this year, according to Virbac. The transaction is subject to FTC approval, which the company says it expects shortly, and the subsequent closing of the Lilly-Novartis deal. European Union regulators approved Lilly's acqusition of Novartis Animal Health earlier this month.

Novartis agreed to sell its veterinary division to Lilly for $5.4 billion back in April, shortly after the Swiss drug giant embarked on a restructuring and started unloading some of its smaller business units. The acquisition by Lilly will turn its Elanco unit into the second-largest animal health company in the world after the Pfizer ($PFE) spinoff Zoetis ($ZTS). Merck ($MRK) Animal Health will move into third place.

As for Virbac, the addition of Sentinel could help bolster weak sales of its parasiticide, Iverhart Max. In July, the company said its U.S. sales were hurt by its chewable heartworm medicine Iverhart Plus, of which nearly three dozen lots had to be recalled last year because of failed potency tests. Virbac began distributing the product again during the summer.

Virbac said in today's announcement that adding Sentinel to its portfolio "will substantially strengthen Virbac's presence and penetration in the U.S. companion animal veterinary market and leverage its growth potential."

- here's the press release
- read more at Reuters