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Respiratory and diabetes drugs lift Merck

Third quarter sales increase 8 per cent, driven by Singulair and Januvia

Merck & Co (known as MSD outside the US and Canada) had a strong third quarter with pharmaceutical sales that rose 9 per cent on the back of revenues from its key diabetes and respiratory brands.

Sales of asthma treatment Singulair (montelukast sodium) grew by 10 per cent to $1.3bn in the quarter and Merck's diabetes drug Januvia (sitagliptin) increased its sales by 41 per cent to $846m.

There was also a strong showing for Merck's cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil, sales of which were up 41 per cent to $445m, aided by its launch in Japan.

Global sales of arthritis drugs Remicade (infliximab) and Simponi (golimumab) dropped 8 per cent after the July transfer of their marketing rights to Johnson & Johnson in a number of territories including Canada, Central and South America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific.

The company's total sales rose by 8 per cent in the period to reach $12bn and there was an almost five-fold increase in net income, largely due to the legal costs from the withdrawal of Vioxx it faced in 2010 and this year's divestiture of its interest in the Johnson & Johnson/Merck Consumer Pharmaceuticals Company joint venture.

Merck also cut its research and development costs in the third quarter by 16 per cent to $2bn compared with the same period in 2010.

Chief executive Kenneth Frazier said: "Going forward, Merck will continue to implement our growth strategy, while transforming the way we operate our business. Three consecutive quarters of top and bottom line growth demonstrate our ability to consistently perform while at the same time make the strategic investments necessary for the future.

“We remain focused on driving innovation and value for our customers and shareholders over the long term."

31st October 2011

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