Methadone maker hits auction block

Private equity firms are circling Martindale Pharmaceuticals, the U.K.'s leading maker of methadone. Put up for sale by its U.S. parent Cardinal Health with a price of about £150 million ($242 million), Martindale is on the block in an auction run by Morgan Stanley.

And Martindale is drawing a lot of private equity interest. The company owns about half the U.K. market for methadone, used to treat heroin addicts, and markets some 100 generics. Much of its profit, however, comes from production of "specials," which are unlicensed products prescribed for specific indications when a licensed product either doesn't exist or isn't on the market any longer, the Financial Times reports.

Some groups that have backed out of the bidding worry about the margin on specials, given the current pricing pressures on pharmaceuticals, the FT reports. They've also been concerned about the reputational problems of methadone production. Several other firms remain in the running, however, including Silverfleet and AAC Capital.

- check out the Financial Times piece