) recently announced that a planned interim review of data from
the IMPROVE-IT study, which is evaluating Vytorin
(ezetimibe/simvastatin), has been conducted by the study's Data
Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB). The DSMB has recommended that the
study should continue. No further interim analyses are planned
for the time-being.
Merck's Vytorin has been seeing a decline in sales over the
past few years with issues raised in the ENHANCE trial having an
adverse impact on Vytorin sales. Results from the ENHANCE trial
were announced in Jan 2008. Results showed that while Vytorin
lowered bad cholesterol more than Zocor, it failed to achieve a
significant difference on the primary endpoint which was a change
in the thickness of carotid artery walls over two years as
measured by ultrasound.
Vytorin sales declined 7.2% to $1.7 billion in 2012. The
IMPROVE-IT study is being conducted to provide cardiovascular
outcomes data for Vytorin in patients with acute coronary
syndrome. The study is currently slated to complete in Sep 2014.
Positive results from this study could help revive Vytorin sales.
However, we note that Vytorin could start facing generic
competition from 2017.
Merck currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). While
headwinds remain in the form of the Singulair genericization, EU
pricing pressure, unfavorable currency movement, US health care
reform and pipeline setbacks, some of the company's recent
launches should start contributing significantly to the top line
in the forthcoming quarters.
Large-cap pharma companies that currently look
). Both are Zacks Rank #2 (Buy) stocks. Meanwhile,
), a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) stock, also looks attractive.
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