Bristol-Myers May Be Mulling Drug Line Sale

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Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (BMY) is in talks to sell its consumer over-the-counter drug line, which includes pain relievers Excedrin and Bufferin, cold medicine Comtrex and Keri lotions, according to published reports.

The pharmaceutical giant, which has struggled to restructure in the face of lost patents on key drugs, is working to shed noncore consumer products as it focuses on drugs to treat and prevent disease, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday on their Web sites, citing people familiar with the discussions.

A Bristol-Myers spokesman declined to comment to the Associated Press late Tuesday.

The Times said UK-based GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK) and some private equity firms were said to be interested in the unit, the unnamed executives said. A deal could happen as quickly as next week, executives told the Times.

Analysts estimate the consumer medicines unit to be worth $700 million to $1 billion, the Times reported.

Bristol-Myers also sells cholesterol drug Pravachol, blood thinner Plavix, and cancer treatment Paraplatin. Its diabetes drug, Glucophage, lost patent protection last year and saw sales skid, as did Paraplatin.

Last month, New York-based Bristol-Myers sold its Oncology Therapeutics Network business to an affiliate of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co (JPM) for undisclosed terms.

The unit accounts for less than 2 percent of the company's $21 billion in annual sales.

In August, the company announced 120 job cuts through 2006, as it moved more closely to pure research.