One of the benefits to raking in $6.7 billion in free cash flow is that you can splurge a little if you don't feel like developing something in-house.

Such is the case with Merck (NYSE:MRK) getting into the follow-on biologics industry -- making copycat versions of biologic drugs -- which the company announced back in December. But bioreactors take time to build, and developing manufacturing processes for producing protein-based biologics isn't as simple as for small molecule drugs. So Merck has decided to go the easy route, and buy something that's already established.

The drugmaker is paying $130 million for Insmed's (NASDAQ:INSM) manufacturing facility and its follow-on biologics pipeline, including copycats of Amgen's (NASDAQ:AMGN) Neupogen and Neulasta. The drugs, which boost white blood cells in cancer patients, combined to bring in more than $4.6 billion in worldwide sales last year. That's no small potatoes, even if Merck will have to offer them at a discount.

Merck and Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY), which has also said it's interested in jumping into follow-on biologics, are behind other drugmakers like Teva Pharmaceutical (NASDAQ:TEVA), Novartis (NYSE:NVS), and Hospira (NYSE:HSP) that already have approvals in the European Union. The U.S. market is presumably larger, but Congress hasn't set up a system for the Food and Drug Administration to approve the follow-on biologics.

The purchase by Merck helps it catch up a little, and it should put the company in a good position to be able to submit a marketing application in the U.S., once the FDA starts accepting them. When it comes to revenue growth, Merck can certainly use all the help it can get.

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Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. The Fool has a disclosure policy.