Merck, J&J Settle Drug Rights Dispute

Merck & Co (NYSE:MRK) and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) said they reached agreement over marketing rights to two lucrative arthritis medicines, ending a high-stakes fight that stemmed from Merck's merger with Schering-Plough Corp.

Under the agreement, Merck will relinquish exclusive marketing rights to the drugs, Remicade and Simponi, to J&J in territories including Canada, Central and South America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific effective July 1.

Merck will retain rights throughout Europe, Russia and Turkey, territories that represent about 70 percent of Merck's 2010 revenue from the drugs of about $2.8 billion.

J&J will also receive a one-time payment of $500 million this month.

J&J and Schering-Plough had previously co-marketed the drugs, an agreement that came into question after Schering's 2009 merger with Merck. An arbitration panel had been weighing the dispute.

The dispute has been an overhang on Merck's stock, with some analysts suggesting the drugmaker's $41 billion deal for Schering would come under criticism should the resolution of the marketing rights be negative for Merck.