Watson Pharmaceuticals ($WPI) and Actavis won Federal Trade Commission approval for their $5.6 billion merger. Provided, that is, that they sell off a basketful of marketed and as-yet-unapproved products, and give up marketing rights to three others.
The two companies have to unload 18 products in all. And two other companies--Par Pharmaceutical and Sandoz--are ready to stand on the receiving end. Par says it will pick up 14 of the drugs, including 5 marketed products, 8 drugs awaiting FDA approval and one in late-stage development. The 5 drugs already on the market include knockoff versions of the pain patch Duragesic and the transplant drug Reglan.
Sandoz, the generics arm of Novartis ($NVS), will buy four products, including the generic version of the stop-smoking drug Zyban and the anti-anxiety drug Ativan.
Watson agreed to buy Actavis earlier this year, in a deal that would create the world's third-biggest generics maker. The merger is part of an ongoing consolidation in the copycat drugs business, as blockbuster drugs go off patent by the handful, creating unprecedented opportunities for growth for companies with the heft to take advantage. The industry is also anticipating the end of the patent cliff, when fewer new drugs are going generic--and economies of scale can help them keep costs down.
Special Report: Watson Pharmaceuticals -- Top 11 Fastest-Growing Generics Companies