Pharmas Market with Mike Huckman

Ain’t No Sunshine For Merck

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These have been sunny days for Merck. Setting aside today’s action, the stock’s been on a pretty good tear lately hitting levels not seen in nearly two years. But the sun isn’t shining everywhere within the company. A lot of pharmaceutical firms, Merck among them, have been busy over the past few years telling everyone that they’re becoming leaner, meaner, more responsive and transparent.

For example, most, if not all, now post their drug development pipelines on their websites and some have started publicly disclosing how much they’re paying outside researchers, doctors and experts.

Not too long ago, pipelines were treated like closely guarded secrets because the companies didn’t want the competition to see what they’re working on. But then, as sales of existing products started to drop and pipelines started to dry up, the companies realized they needed to show analysts and investors more of what’s going on if they wanted to attract positive ratings and dollars.

Pfizer and Merck are both swallowing big companies, Wyeth and Schering-Plough, respectively. Officials at both companies have been and are going through their newly stuffed pipelines and making go/no-go decisions, trying as best as they can to weed out the potential winners and losers.

Generally speaking, depending on what stage of development a drug is in and how great Wall Street’s expectations are for it, those decisions can sometimes move stocks.

That’s why it was kind of surprising to find out on the Dow Jones newswire yesterday afternoon that Merck had made a significant no-go decision. Merck got the experimental HIV/AIDS drug from Schering, which had previously said it was on track to soon file for FDA approval of the drug.

But late-stage studies in patients who have already taken other drugs to treat the virus didn’t meet their goals. The company is still going to see if the drug works on patients who haven’t taken anything else before, but those studies aren’t as far along.

Either DJ has the Merck Investor Relations page on some kind of alert or someone tipped them off because that’s where Merck buried the news. Good on them no matter how they got the scoop.

But usually companies will email a press release to beat reporters, sometimes even call them to make sure they see the news and/or put it out on the wires. In this case there was no press release.

It was simply slipped on the IR page under “Merck FAQ’s” for someone to somehow uncover. Underneath that is yesterday’s date and this: “Keyword: Vicriviroc.” Uh, like that’s really a clue that news is buried here. Vicriviroc, by the way, is the mouthful-of-a-name for the drug.

Let the sun shine in.

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