AstraZeneca has sold rights to an over the counter version of its heartburn tablets

Pfizer has struck a $250 million (£160 million) deal with UK rival AstraZeneca to sell an over-the-counter (OTC) version of Nexium (esomeprazole magnesium) heartburn tablets.

AstraZeneca launched the Nexium brand for prescription use in 2000. The company has started filing marketing applications for an OTC version – the EU application landed in June and the US equivalent is planned for the first half of 2013.

Under the terms, Pfizer will pay $250 million up front and commit to making undisclosed further payments based on product launches and sales if they happen. For this, it will get exclusive rights to the OTC version. If all goes to plan, Pfizer will launch the product in the US in 2014.

The two companies are investigating similar deals in relation to other brands in the AstraZeneca portfolio from which OTC products might be derived. Notably, Pfizer has been given first refusal on Rhinocort Aqua (glucocorticosteroid budesonide) anti-inflammatory pump sprays for the treatment of non-infectious rhinitis, such as hay fever and house dust mite allergy.