Patent cliff prompts drop in sales at drug behemoth Merck

Julian Harris
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PHARMA giant Merck revealed yesterday that it is the latest drug-maker to be hit by expiring patents, as it reported a nine per cent drop in global sales during the first quarter of the year.

The New Jersey-based firm’s revenues were heavily weighed down by the loss of exclusivity on its asthma treatment Singulair, which recorded a huge 75 per cent dip in sales.

Last August US authorities approved the first generic versions of Singulair, which now provide stiff competition to Merck’s original product.

“Our first quarter performance reflects the challenges of major patent expiries coupled with the impact of currency and other headwinds,” admitted Kenneth C Frazier, Merck’s chairman and chief executive.

Net income came in at $1.59bn (£1.02bn), down from $1.74bn at the same time last year.

Frazier also used the results to announce a share buyback programme that could total $15bn. It aims to repurchase $7.5bn over the next year.