AstraZeneca is seeking a buyer for its Astra Tech business, which makes dental implants and other medical devices. The unit could fetch $2bn.

JPMorgan has been appointed to help AstraZeneca manage the sales and has started contacting potential buyers.

The divestment marks the latest attempt by the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical group led by David Brennan, chief executive, to generate cash as it struggles to cope with patent expiries and refocus on its core drug development activities.

Astra Tech’s products include dental implants, a catheter for bladder dysfunction, blood filtration and a breathing aid for people with pulmonary disease. It could offer potential both to private equity groups and other medical companies seeking to broaden their product ranges at a time of growing interest in over-the-counter sales as well as devices, which are less tightly regulated than pharmaceuticals.

AstraZeneca is facing a steep fall in sales in the coming years as patents expire on some of its most successful drugs and it struggles to find replacements.

The company has stood out from many of its peers by resisting diversification into consumer healthcare, animal health and other less risky niches than patented drugs, although it said this year that it would expand off-patent generic drug sales in some markets.

Bloomberg reported the launch of the sales process, adding that the company was also considering selling a chain of outpatient cancer centres it owns in the US.

One person familiar with the industry pointed to 3M and Danaher as possible buyers of dental businesses in the US, adding that other pharmaceutical companies could look at the unit as they seek to diversify their businesses.

Possible buyers in Switzerland for implants include Nobel Biocare and Straumann. Astra Tech is based in Sweden and had sales of €374m ($507m) last year. Both JPMorgan and AstraZeneca declined to comment.

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