TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – Drugmaker Merck & Co. now has about 40 experimental drugs in mid-or late-stage testing as a result of buying partner Schering-Plough Corp. The megadeal was partly meant to boost Merck’s prospects with a host of future drugs.
The combined company, which has been reviewing and integrating the research programs of Merck and Schering-Plough, also has four drugs awaiting approval by regulators. Those include Schering-Plough medicines for asthma, schizophrenia and contraception, and a Merck drug for a dangerous irregular heartbeat.
The 19 drugs in late-stage development include four treatments for heart disease, an injection for dangerous Staph infections and a pill – instead of the shots now used – to gradually eliminate allergy symptoms in people with hay fever. Another 24 drugs are in mid-stage human testing.
Overall, about 55 percent of the compounds came from Merck labs and the rest – about 20 products – came from Schering-Plough.
Analysts and other experts considered Schering-Plough’s late-stage drug pipelines one of the best in the business, making the deal a smart one for Merck. While Merck produced a burst of new products a few years ago, it faced increasing competition from generic rivals and needed new medicines to replace those lost revenues.
Merck plans to lay off about 15,000 of the combined company’s 100,000 employees and eliminate about 2,500 jobs that are currently unfilled. Many of those will be in research and development, but Merck still isn’t saying how many or which laboratories might be closed.
Merck, based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., said its integration of the two companies’ pipelines overlapped only in hepatitis C and cancer.
In those two cases, each company had a lead compound out of multiple candidates. The combined company decided to put the Schering-Plough compounds on the back burner and move forward on testing of the Merck compounds, according to Merck spokesman Ian McConnell.
The rest of the pipeline includes pills, vaccines and injected biologic drugs for diabetes, insomnia, schizophrenia, multiple cancer types, hardening of the arteries, glaucoma, infectious diseases, osteoporosis and anemia.
Among the more promising compounds Merck received from Schering-Plough are an allergy pill and a drug to prevent life-threatening blood clots.
Merck bought Schering-Plough, which was based nearby in Kenilworth, N.J., on Nov. 3 for $41.1 billion in last year’s second-biggest pharmaceutical acquisition. The pharmaceutical industry is consolidating to cut costs due to intensifying generic competition, slumping revenues and a dearth of major new products – exacerbated by slightly lower sales amid the global recession.
The deal made Merck the world’s second-biggest pharmaceutical company by global revenue after Pfizer Inc. Previously, Merck was the eighth-largest company in the sector.
More importantly, the transaction diversified Merck overnight by adding Schering’s biologic drugs, popular consumer health lines such as Claritin allergy pills and Coppertone sun care, and a top animal health business.
The two companies had been longtime collaborators on a joint venture selling the popular cholesterol drugs Zetia and Vytorin, whose sales have fallen amid questions about their efficacy.
Date: March 2, 2010
Source: Associated Press
Filed Under: Drug Discovery