The Canadian drugmaker Valeant Pharmaceuticals International will buy Salix Pharmaceuticals for approximately $10.1 billion in cash, the companies announced Sunday. The deal is the largest ever for Valeant, which will pay $158 per share for all of Salix's outstanding stock.

The deal comes less than three months after reports suggested Valeant would temporarily halt its strategy of growth through acquisition and would instead attempt to reduce its debt. At the time, Reuters reported Valeant's strategy was aimed at the coming two to three quarters. In November, Valeant attempted to acquire Allergan, which makes Botox.

The total enterprise value of the deal was $14.5 billion, including Salix's debt, and the deal is expected to close in the second quarter. As late as last week, Shire, the Irish pharmaceutical company, was working on a potential deal to buy Salix, Reuters reported. Other companies had previously looked into buying Salix as well, including Allergan and Actavis, the New York Times said.

"Salix's market-leading gastrointestinal franchise is an ideal strategic fit for Valeant's diversified portfolio of specialty products," J. Michael Pearson, chairman and chief executive officer of Valeant, said in a press release. Valeant manufacturers drugs for dermatology, neurology and eye health (it bought Bausch & Lomb for $8.7 billion in 2013), according to the release, and it also makes branded generics. In buying Salix, Valeant gains a foothold and the opportunity to expand into what Pearson called the "undertreated and underserved gastrointestinal market." 

"Combining Salix's leading market position in gastroenterology with Valeant's scale and resources will create a stronger and more diverse business," said Thomas D'Alonzo, chairman of the board and acting chief executive officer for Salix. Salix is based in Raleigh, North Carolina, and makes drugs for gastrointestinal problems, such as Xifaxan for irritable bowel syndrome and Uceris and Apriso for ulcerative colitis, a disease that affects the colon.