Merck's fourth-quarter profit fell 7 percent as sales of its former best-selling drug Singulair were depressed by generic competition, and the company said Friday that it would delay seeking government approval of a much-anticipated osteoporosis drug.
Full-year and fourth-quarter 2012 results were released Friday morning by Merck, which is based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., and has a large facility in West Point, Montgomery County. Shares fell 3.3 percent, to close at $41.83.
Singulair, a once-a-day pill for chronic asthma, brought in $5.48 billion in 2011 and followed its quarterly average of about $1.3 billion through the first half of 2012. But the U.S. patent expired Aug. 3, and sales in this country fell 97 percent in the fourth quarter as cheaper generic drugs took over the market.
For the full year, Merck reported, worldwide Singular sales were $3.9 billion, a 30 percent drop.
Januvia, a diabetes drug, is now the company's top seller, with fourth-quarter sales of $1.3 billion and full-year sales of $4.09 billion.
Full-year total revenue was $47.27 billion, down 2 percent from 2011. But the company still managed to turn a full-year profit increase of 6 percent, from $6.27 billion to $6.66 billion.
Merck had -- and says it still has -- high hopes for odanacatib, a medicine for osteoporosis, in which bones weaken and become brittle. A branch of the National Institutes of Health says about 40 million Americans already have osteoporosis or are candidates to get it.
The company had hoped to submit its application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, with clinical-trial results, in the first half of 2013. Instead, Merck is continuing with an extension of the pivotal third phase of trials and won't apply to the FDA until at least 2014.
"We continue to believe in the potential of odanacatib to meet the unmet needs of patients with osteoporosis," chief executive officer Ken Frazer said in a conference call with analysts.
Contact David Sell at dsell@ phillynews.com or 215-854-4506. Read his blog at www.philly.com/phillypharma and on Twitter @phillypharma. ___