Stiefel Laboratories Inc, a privately held pharmaceutical maker, is considering selling itself in a deal that could be worth several billion dollars, the Wall Street Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter. The potential sale has drawn interest from a number of major drug companies, including Johnson & Johnson , Novartis AG and GlaxoSmithKline PLC , the people told the paper.

Stiefel, a maker of anti-itch creams, acne treatments and other dermatological remedies, is hoping to fetch somewhere in the range of $3 billion to $4 billion, the people told the paper.

Valuations of many drugmakers have fallen over the past year in the global economic downturn, making smaller companies more attractive targets for bigger ones.

A spokeswoman for Stiefel told the paper the company's board has not decided to sell the company and hasn't received any offers. Like any business, if we received an offer it would be carefully considered, the spokeswoman said in an email to the paper.

Stiefel, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters.

Stiefel has been controlled for more than 160 years by the founding Stiefel family, the paper said. Private-equity group Blackstone Group LP , which invested $500 million in the company in 2007, owns a substantial minority stake, the paper said.

Stiefel has annual revenue of about $1 billion, the paper said, citing a person familiar with the company.

Founded in Germany in 1847, the company is now based in Coral Gables, Florida, the paper said.

The news comes in the backdrop of heavyweight drug deals this year.

Roche Holding AG has agreed to buy less than half of Genentech Inc for $46.8 billion; Pfizer Inc
has agreed to pay $68 billion for Wyeth ; Merck & Co Inc plans to buy Schering-Plough Corp for $41.1 billion.

(Reporting by S. John Tilak in Bangalore, Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)