Astra Adds Muscle In The U.S.

IN THE LATEST STAGE OF ITS aggressive American expansion, Swedish drugmaker Astra on Nov. 1 agreed to pay $820 million for a 50% stake in the Merck unit that markets most of its products in the U.S. The new joint venture, Astra Merck, initially will focus on pushing Astra's blockbuster anti-ulcer drug Prilosec. But it also will get first U.S. dibs on most new products from Astra's pipeline. Over the past year, a separate Astra unit in the U.S. has hired some 350 new sales representatives to gear up for the launch of the anti-asthma drug Pulmicort.

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