AZ to pay $647M for Merck rights

AstraZeneca has exercised its option to buy out Merck's interest in some of its products, planning to pay its U.S. rival $647 million for its share of blood pressure drugs Atacand, Lexxel and Plendil, and the Crohn's disease treatment Entocort. Some in-development products are also part of the deal, including the blockbuster hopeful Brilinta, a blood thinner.

AstraZeneca and Merck have been partners on these and other drugs for years; the original sales-and-distribution deal dates to 1982, with a restructuring in 1998. The deal also includes shares of the big-time heartburn drugs Nexium and Prilosec, which AstraZeneca has the option to repurchase beginning in 2012.

AstraZeneca had been expected to exercise the repurchase option; it's said for some time that ending its Merck alliance will give it more freedom--and more cash, given that it won't have to make those pesky royalty payments.

- get the Merck release
- read the news from Reuters