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Sales up at MSD while Keytruda hits survival target in late-stage trial

Published on 28/10/15 at 10:00am
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Worldwide sales at MSD were $10.1 billion in the third quarter of 2015, a 4% increase after accounting for the effects of foreign exchange and the US firm’s acquisitions and divestitures.

The sales were down 5% on the same period in 2014, when MSD earned $10.6bn in sales. However the company says that this includes “a 7% negative impact from foreign exchange and a 2% net unfavourable impact resulting from the divestiture of the consumer care business and select products, [and] partially offset by the acquisition of Cubist Pharmaceuticals.”

Pharmaceutical division sales, at $8.9bn, were up 2% after the effects of currency were accounted for. Top-selling drug Januvia (sitagliptin) and Janumet (sitagliptin/metformin) earned $1.6bn in sales, up 17% year on year after currency changes.

“Our solid results this quarter demonstrate that our focused strategy, which aims to drive future growth, as well as value for patients, society and shareholders, is working. The evolving market, economic and political dynamics of global health care increasingly underscore that the ability to provide high-value innovation is what will distinguish successful companies going forward,” says Kenneth C Frazier, chairman and chief executive of MSD.

And chief financial officer Robert Davis adds: “The third quarter was another demonstration of our strong execution. We remain committed to delivering a leveraged profit and loss. We have met and will exceed our annual target of $2.5 billion in net savings versus 2012 by the end of this year.”

The firm announced the financial results along with top-line results from the KEYNOTE-010 trial of its immunotherapy drug Keytruda (pembrolizumab), tipped by many to be a future blockbuster, which earned $160 million in third quarter sales. In a Phase II/III trial comparing two doses of Keytruda with the chemotherapy drug docetaxel, a top-line analysis revealed that treatment with Keytruda was associated with longer overall survival compared with docetaxel treatment. This was true of both doses; the FDA-approved 2mg/kg dose and a higher, investigational 10mg/kg dose, each given every three weeks.

“In the third quarter, Merck Research Laboratories achieved multiple milestones in our oncology and infectious disease clinical development programs, priority areas where we believe we can have the most beneficial impact on the lives of patients around the world,” says Dr Roger M Perlmutter, president of Merck Research Laboratories. “In particular, the results from KEYNOTE-010 provide unambiguous evidence of the favourable impact that our R&D efforts can have in the treatment of grievous illnesses.”

Lilian Anekwe

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