Merck beats Q3 forecasts, scores another Keytruda 'breakthrough'
- On Monday, Merck reported Q3 2014 revenues that were down more than 20% compared to Q3 2013 to $895 million.
- Despite the fall in net revenue, the company was able to revise its earnings per share (excluding special items) to $0.90 per share in Q3, compared with an expected $0.88 per share. Furthermore, Merck revised its full-year forecast (again excluding special items) to between $3.46 and $3.50 per share. It had expected between $3.43 to $3.53 per share earlier in the year.
- Merck was able to beat expectations thanks to some aggressive cost-cutting, which made up for plummeting sales of the HPV vaccine Gardasil and increased generic competition from popular asthma drug Singulair and the brain cancer treatment Temodar.
Gardasil sales were down sharply to $590 million in Q3, a year-over-year drop of 11%. That was largely driven by fewer purchases of the vaccine by U.S. government programs, which may have to do with America's woefully low HPV vaccine compliance rates among both boys and girls.
Overall sales were down 4% for Merck. But the company has much to look forward to in 2015. In fact, Merck announced that its historic PD-1 inhibitor cancer therapy Keytruda (already approved for advanced melanoma) had won a second breakthrough therapy designation from the FDA on Monday, this time for the treatment of patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Keytruda is being studied for potential use in dozens of cancers.