Merck Accelerates Lung Cancer, Hepatitis C Drugs

Merck plans to file an application with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the first half of 2015 for the grazoprevir and elbasvir once-daily combination hepatitis C medicine, the company said in a statement today, joining AbbVie Inc. (ABBV:US) and Gilead Sciences Inc. (GILD:US) in creating drug cocktails that can treat the disease in many patients. Merck also plans to apply for permission to expand use of the melanoma treatment Keytruda into non-small cell lung cancer patients.

Merck replaced its head of research in 2013 with Roger Perlmutter and focused development efforts on oncology, hepatitis C, cardiometabolic disease, antimicrobial resistance and Alzheimer’s disease. The Kenilworth, New Jersey-based company has needed new approvals to make up for a decline in sales from the asthma drug Singulair, which lost patent protection in the U.S. in 2012 and in Europe in 2013. Singulair sales fell from $5.5 billion in 2011 to $1.2 billion in 2013.

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