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.