IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Ahead of the Bell: Merck to update on research

Dozens of Wall Street analysts will be looking for some good news at Merck & Co.'s annual business briefing Tuesday after last week's glum forecast for 2009 and the recent start of another restructuring program.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Dozens of Wall Street analysts will be looking for some good news at Merck & Co.'s annual business briefing Tuesday after last week's glum forecast for 2009 and the recent start of another restructuring program.

Merck executives plan to discuss the company's strategy for growth, just days after the drugmaker last Thursday forecast lower profits and flat revenue in 2009.

Research head Peter Kim will give the company's annual update on the progress of experimental drugs Merck is developing, including three experimental drugs for atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

Analysts likely will be particularly interested in three other late-stage drugs: a migraine treatment called telcagepant, a heart failure drug called rolofylline and an osteoporosis treatment called odanacatib. If the osteoporosis drug wins approval, it might help Merck recapture its dominance in that field as the maker of Fosamax, a multibillion-dollar seller that saw sales plunge after it got generic competition in February.

Management also is expected to give updates on the status of two existing drugs for which the company is seeking new uses: cancer vaccine Gardasil and HIV drug Isentress. Merck previously had said it expected to apply by the end of this year for approval to sell Gardasil to males and Isentress for patients new to HIV treatment, rather than just patients already treated for the virus that causes AIDS.

Kenneth Frazier, Merck's marketing chief, is to give an update on product sales and promotion efforts. He likely will discuss four of Merck's newest products — the diabetes drugs Januvia and Janumet, AIDS drug Isentress and shingles vaccine Zostavax — given that the company last Thursday said the four will have better sales next year.

Chief Executive Richard Clarke and Chief Financial Officer Peter Kellogg also are to speak to dozens of analysts and reporters gathered at company headquarters in Whitehouse Station, N.J.

Last week, Merck posted sales and revenue outlooks for 2009 that were below analyst expectations. Management blamed the weak global economy, generic competition, slower sales of key products and restructuring charges.

In late October, the company announced a restructuring that includes 7,200 planned job cuts by 2011.