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May 13 (Bloomberg) -- Merck & Co. agreed to sell rights for eye treatments in Japan and other markets to Santen Pharmaceutical Co. for at least $600 million as the U.S. drugmaker narrows its areas of focus to boost efficiency.

Osaka-based Santen will have rights for products including Cosopt and Timoptic eyedrops to treat glaucoma and ocular hypertension in Japan and key markets in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, Merck said in a statement today. Merck may get additional payments linked to sales milestones in the future.

The purchase expands the portfolio and reach of the Japanese company, which already sells prescription and over-the-counter medicines for eye diseases. Santen gains products with annual sales of about $400 million in the markets under agreement.

“The decision to divest our ophthalmics business is part of our ongoing strategy to sharpen our commercial focus and improve our operational effectiveness,” said Jay Galeota, president for hospital and specialty care at Merck, said in the statement.

Merck will continue to sell its ophthalmology products in Latin America, Canada, Australia, Middle East, Africa and other markets, the Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based company said. It sold its U.S. ophthalmology business to Akorn Pharmaceuticals in 2013 and 2014.

Global pharmaceutical companies have announced a wave of deals this year as they have shuffled units to focus on areas where they are leaders or have an edge. Bayer AG this month agreed to buy Merck’s consumer unit for $14.2 billion.

Merck will supply the products to Santen for two to five years.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kanoko Matsuyama in Tokyo at kmatsuyama2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anjali Cordeiro at acordeiro2@bloomberg.net David Risser

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