German-based Bayer AG is buying the medicine and consumer care business of Merck & Co.'s for $14.2 billion in a move that will make it a leader in over-the-counter products.

In addition to its own Aleve pain medication and One-A-Day vitamins, it will control Claritin allergy pills, MiraLax gastrointestinal drugs, Coppertone sun lotion and Dr. Scholl's footcare products.

 “This acquisition marks a major milestone on our path towards global leadership in the attractive non-prescription medicines business,"  Bayer CEO Marijn Dekkers said in a news release.

Bayer will become the leader in North America and Latin America in cold, allergy, sinus and flu medicines and in skin products and gastrointestinal treatment.

It becomes No. 2 in the world in over-the-counter products with about $7.4 billion US in sales from the combined business.

Cooperation in hypertension drugs

Bayer said it also has entered an agreement with New Jersey-based Merck to co-operate on developing drugs known as sGC modulators, which have potential for treating heart failure and pulmonary hypertension.

It plans a significant push to market new drugs in this area which the company says has potential for growth in new treatments.

The collaboration includes Adempas (Riociguat), a Merck drug which is already approved for the treatment of certain classifications of pulmonary hypertension.

There has been a series of mergers in pharmaceutical businesses this spring, with Pfizer attempting to take over AstraZeneca and Roche taking over Genentech and Valeant buying Allergan.

All the big pharmaceuticals are looking to cut the cost of developing new drugs, and find synergies in marketing and manufacturing worldwide. A round of layoffs in many of the merger targets may be on the horizon.

Big mergers and layoffs

Merck took over Schering-Plough Corp., maker of Coppertone and Claritin, in 2009, leading to thousands of layoffs.

Merck CEO Kenneth C. Frazier said the company plans to invest in a strategy of becoming a research intensive drug company.

Merck, like other major drugmakers, has seen its pharmaceutical sales slide due to the onset of cheaper generic versions of several drugs that once raked in billions annually. Those include the asthma and allergy pill Singulair, the allergy spray Nasonex and the blood pressure drugs Cozaar and Hyzaar.

With files from the Associated Press