K reported better-than-expected third-quarter earnings yesterday thanks to cost cutting, but lower sales of its Januvia diabetes treatment added fresh evidence that its biggest product has been losing ground to newer drugs.
Moreover, sales of Merck’s animal health products, which typically prop up results, fell two per cent in the third quarter, hurt by the recent decision to suspend sales of its Zilmax weight-gain feed supplement amid concerns it was causing lameness in cattle.
“The fundamentals of the business remain solid despite what we saw in the quarter,” chief executive Ken Frazier said, referring to the animal health unit.
Global sales of Januvia fell five per cent in the quarter to $927m (£574m). Combined sales of the pill and a related drug called Janumet fell one per cent to $1.4bn, versus five per cent growth in the prior quarter, and marked a return to declines in the first quarter.
The company earned $1.12bn, or 38 cents per share, in the third quarter, compared with $1.73bn, or 56 cents per share, in the year-earlier period.
Excluding special items, Merck earned 92 cents per share.
Company sales fell four per cent to $11.03bn.