J&J sells Rolaids brand to Sanofi

Rolaids among pills recalled in 2010 from J&J's McNeil plant.
Rolaids among pills recalled in 2010 from J&J's McNeil plant. (DANIEL ACKER / Bloomberg)
Posted: January 09, 2013

Rolaids is an iconic brand of antacid tablets, but it hasn't been produced since 2010 and has now been sold twice in six years.

Johnson & Johnson, which paid $16.6 billion to Pfizer Inc. in 2006 for Rolaids and other over-the-counter consumer products, sold Rolaids to Sanofi, with neither company disclosing the price in Monday's announcement.

In 2006, Rolaids and other Pfizer products were added to responsibilities of the McNeil Consumer Healthcare division, based in Fort Washington, Montgomery County. That unit is part of the larger McNeil-PPC Inc., which is J&J's consumer unit.

McNeil spokeswoman Barbara Montresor said that Monday's deal would not mean job cuts in Fort Washington.

Sanofi is based in Paris, but has facilities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania (including Malvern). Its Chattem subsidiary, based in Chattanooga, Tenn., will now sell Rolaids.

When Bill Weldon, J&J's chief executive officer in 2006, bought the Pfizer products, he also directed that cost cuts be implemented at McNeil. Employees have said that led to the production problems, dozens of recalls (including Rolaids), and the April 2010 stoppage of production at the Fort Washington factory.

The factory won't resume production until perhaps 2014, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and a federal judge must give approval first.

Selling Rolaids will mean one less item on the McNeil plate as it tries to recover. Some Wall Street analysts have said J&J should divest all of its consumer products, but Montresor would say only that J&J continually reviews its portfolio of products.

Chattem will relaunch Rolaids and expects the product to be available at retailers within a year, Sanofi said.

"This acquisition," Anne Whitaker, president of Sanofi's North America pharmaceuticals unit, said in a statement, "is consistent with our long-term strategy, which includes growing our consumer health-care offering as part of a broader diversification strategy."

Contact David Sell at 215-854-4506 or dsell@ phillynews.com, or follow

on Twitter @phillypharma.

Read his blog at www.philly.com/phillypharma.


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