Merck has announced plans to buy up to $10 billion worth of shares in a pharmaceutical company, while Pfizer plans to acquire about $2 billion worth in the pharmaceutical sector.
Ahead of the announcement, Merck said it had received a preliminary antitrust filing from Pfizer that said the two companies would “investigate the possibility of an antitrust complaint in connection with antitrust matters in the area of pharmaceuticals,” according to the filing.
Merck also said it would file a proposed merger agreement with Pfizer in the coming weeks.
Pfizer has already agreed to buy back about $3.5 billion in Merck stock, which is worth about $1.5 trillion, including stock options.
The merger could come as early as the first quarter of 2018.
Pfiser and Merck have been locked in an antitrust dispute over the way Pfizer uses its patents on a drug called Zohydro, which Pfizer had patented in the United States.
Pfiz has argued that its patent covers the entire market, while Merck says it covers only certain uses of Zohydros.
The filing from Merck on Monday said that it would invest up to the maximum amount that Pfizer is willing to pay.
Pfist said it planned to pay $2.5 million to $3 million for each share of Pfizer stock, the filing said.
Pfizer said that while it had already agreed with Merck that it could make a bid to buy Pfizer’s patents, the companies would work on “strategic alternatives” to a potential merger.
“The timing of this announcement, combined with the current litigation between Pfizer and Merk, underscores the importance of addressing this urgent issue,” Pfizer said in a statement.
“We will continue to work with the appropriate authorities to explore our strategic alternatives to a possible merger and to ensure Pfizer retains its dominant position in the U.S. pharmaceutical market.”