By Dow Jones Business News,
February 05, 2014, 07:55:00 AM EDT
Merck & Co. said it entered three separate collaboration agreements with peers to evaluate its investigational
immunotherapy cancer treatment, part of a promising new class of experimental drugs that unleash the body's immune
system to target cancer cells.
The disclosure came as the drug maker also reported fourth-quarter results that slightly missed consensus estimates.
Merck will collaborate on studies of the treatment, MK-3475, in combination with therapies from Pfizer Inc., Amgen
Inc. and Incyte Corp. Financial terms weren't provided.
Merck's research-and-development chief, Roger M. Perlmutter, said Merck is looking at MK-3475 across a wide range of
cancers, both as a standalone therapy and in combination with other treatments.
"These new collaborations with Amgen, Incyte and Pfizer underscore our shared determination to evaluate treatment
regimens with the potential to provide meaningful benefits to patients suffering from cancer," Mr. Perlmutter said.
In addition to working with the three drug makers, Merck will start looking at the compound's potential against 20
cancers it hasn't yet been put up against.
Meanwhile, Merck reported its fourth-quarter earnings fell 14% on weaker sales and higher expenses related to its
For 2014, the company forecast per-share earnings of $3.35 to $3.53 and revenue of $42.4 billion to $43.2 billion.
Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected a per-share profit of $3.48 and revenue of $43.35 billion.
It also expects 2014 adjusted marketing and administrative as well as R&D expenses to be below 2013 levels due to
continuing prioritization and focused spending on core product lines and upcoming launches.
Merck has struggled with patent expirations for top-selling drugs and setbacks in its efforts to bring new products to
market, trends that led to the company's October plan to reduce its workforce by 20% over the next two years, including
reductions in its research-and-development unit.
Chief Executive Kenneth Frazier in October had said the pharmaceutical giant would consider shedding certain products
and businesses and had continued to leave the door open to the possibility of shedding Merck's animal-health and
consumer-health businesses, though he noted that those operations complemented Merck's core human-health business.
On Wednesday, Merck said it expects to complete a review of options for its animal health and consumer-health
divisions, and take any potential actions, this year.
Merck reported a profit of $781 million, or 26 cents a share, down from $908 million, or 30 cents a share, a year
earlier. Excluding acquisition- and restructuring-related charges and other items, adjusted earnings rose to 88 cents
from 83 cents. Revenue decreased 3.4% to $11.32 billion.
Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected a per-share profit of 89 cents and revenue of $11.36 billion.
Sales of Merck's previous No. 1 product, asthma treatment Singulair, which lost patent protection in 2012, fell 38% to
$298 million, on top of a drop of 67% a year earlier.
Type 2 diabetes drug Januvia sales fell 1% to $1.12 billion. Sales of the drug were soft all year, a marked halt to
the double-digit percentage sales gains seen since its 2006 introduction.
Write to Tess Stynes at email@example.com
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