WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Kenneth Frazier, who on Jan. 1 succeeded the retiring Richard Clark as chief executive, is expected to tout several promising drugs with big sales potential and may discuss a couple of recent deals. Clark is remaining with the company as chairman.
An FDA decision is expected in the second half of 2011 on an extended-release version of Janumet, a popular
Executives of Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based Merck also will discuss recent promising late-stage test results for anacetrapib, for
The company will discuss vorapaxar, a clot-preventing drug deemed a likely blockbuster until the company in January had to halt one study because of increased bleeding in the brains of patients who'd had strokes. Merck also removed former stroke patients from a second study of the drug, which continues.
Results for 2010 will be the first for a full year since Merck bought Schering-Plough for $41.1 billion. That gave Merck some key experimental drugs, a strong biotech business, consumer health products including Coppertone and an animal health business called Intervet.
Merck plans to combine Intervet with
Merck will give its quarterly update on job cuts and may discuss progress in integrating Schering-Plough.
Analysts likely will ask about the status of arbitration over revenue from two biologic drugs for
Merck executives likely will discuss two recent deals.
In December, Merck said it will buy insulin developer SmartCells Inc., a deal that could make Merck a bigger player in the lucrative and fast-growing diabetes treatment market. Privately held SmartCells is developing a form of insulin that could lower risk of dangerously low blood sugar and improve overall blood sugar control. Merck jumped into the diabetes field barely four years ago with the launch of Januvia. Combined sales of Januvia and Janumet climbed to nearly $850 million in the third quarter.
In January, Merck reached a deal with Parexel International Corp. for help developing copies of biologic drugs, which are grown in living cells rather than by combining chemicals. Last year's health overhaul laid the groundwork for approval of such "biosimilars," which Merck said were a priority area when it started Merck BioVentures late in 2008 to make both new and follow-on biologic drugs.
WHY IT MATTERS: Like other drugmakers, Merck's revenue is taking a hit from the weak global economy, generic competition and increased pressure for lower prices from U.S. and European government health programs. It needs the key drugs in its pipeline to get approved and to deliver big sales.
And if Johnson & Johnson wins exclusive rights to Remicade and successor drug Simponi, Merck would lose about $2 billion in annual revenue.
WHAT'S EXPECTED: Analysts surveyed by FactSet forecast earnings per share of 83 cents and sales of $11.55 billion.