Drugmaker Merck & Co. Inc. has agreed to sell manufacturing and related sites and options on several products to Aspen Pharmacare Holdings for about $1 billion, the largest divestiture for Merck since 2009.
The manufacturing sites, employing about 960 people, are in the Netherlands. Merck facilities in Sioux City, Iowa, and Des Plaines, Ill., employ a total of 20 people and also will shift to Aspen. The 11 products had $248 million in 2012 sales, mostly in Latin America and East Asia.
Like other large brand-name pharmaceutical companies, Merck - based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., with a large operation in West Point, Montgomery County - has been trying to cut costs to maintain profit levels in the face of increased competition from cheaper generic drugs and pressure from insurers to reduce prices. This week, Pfizer Inc. completed the spin-off of its animal-health unit, Zoetis.