Doubling down in diabetes
Merck shoring up slowing diabetes franchise with Pfizer, Abide deals
Against a backdrop of flattening sales of its only marketed diabetes drugs and a new class of oral drugs - SGLT2s - entering the market from competitors, Merck & Co. Inc. appears to be shoring up its position.
Last Monday, Merck and Pfizer Inc. announced they will co-develop and co-commercialize Pfizer's ertugliflozin, plus fixed-dose combinations of the oral sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitor with metformin and with Merck's Januvia sitagliptin, a dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitor.
This year, the partners plan to begin Phase III testing of ertugliflozin and the combination products to treat Type II diabetes.
Three days later, Merck announced a deal with Abide Therapeutics Inc. to discover, develop and commercialize small molecules against three serine hydrolase targets to treat metabolic diseases, with a focus on Type II diabetes.
The deals are Merck's first for any diabetes compounds since 2010, and the Pfizer collaboration is the first late-stage diabetes deal for Merck since 2004, when it licensed rights to co-develop Pargluva muraglitazar from Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.
In early 2005, Merck was poised to enter the market with the first DPP-4 inhibitor as well as an improved version of the then-blockbuster PPAR class of oral diabetes drugs.
Pargluva, a dual peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) alpha and gamma inhibitor, was in registration. Januvia was in Phase III testing, and the company's 10-K