Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca’s first option payment due to Merck in 2008 under a complex marketing partnership between the firms was unlikely to exceed $3.3 billion, a report from the Web site of the UK newspaper The Times said.
The Merck payout dates back to 1982, when Sweden’s Astra entered a marketing arrangement with the New Jersey-based drugmaker.
Under the terms of the deal, which were renegotiated in 1998, AstraZeneca must buy out Merck’s interest in a portfolio of medicines, including the heart drug Toprol XL and the asthma treatments Pulmicort, Rhinocort and Symbicort. Under the complex partnership arrangement, Merck also has the right to force AstraZeneca to take back a further five drugs: Plendil, Atacand, Entocort, Lexxel and an as-yet-unnamed medicine known only by the code name AZD6140.
If Merck does not trigger the option in 2008, AstraZeneca has the right to buy the medicines back at more favorable rates in 2010.