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Merck And SGP's Other Joint Venture is Nothing To Sneeze At

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AP

These days there's been a lot of media attention paid to the Merck and Schering-Plough partnership on the cholesterol-fighting drugs Zetia and Vytorin. But there's another less-known and little-talked-about respiratory MRK/SGP joint venture.

Last year, the JV announced that it had filed for Food and Drug Administration approval of a combo allergy pill of Merck's Singulair and Schering-Plough's old mega-blockbuster Claritin. The company is trying to extend the life of the pill that went generic and over-the-counter in a double whammy earlier this decade.

So, should it come as any surprise that on this first day of spring, the companies issue a press release about how allergies don't get any respect? They've even created a special new web site where you can check out the detailed survey results. This is typically the time of year when the drug companies that make allergy drugs begin to see a bump up in prescriptions and sales.

MRK and SGP hired Harris Interactive to do a phone survey of more than a thousand people 18 and older who have indoor or outdoor allergies, another thousand or so regular consumers and more than 300 doctors who take care of those types of patients.

Allergies apparently are far down the list of medical problems Americans consider to be serious. Interestingly, about a third of the participants think people essentially complain too much about their allergies and nearly a third say they use their allergies as an excuse to get out of something. And the survey says only about a third of allergy sufferers go see a doctor when they have an attack. So, obviously the companies are trying to get more people to talk to their docs and maybe get a prescription written for at least one of their drugs.

Overall, the survey concludes that there's a lot of ambivalence about allergies and that there's a lack of appreciation for the psychological side-effects of sneezing, watery, itchy eyes, etc.

Full disclosure: I am a longtime allergy sufferer and take Merck's Singulair and Schering-Plough's Nasonex starting around this time of year here in the Northeast. That is NOT an endorsement of either product. Just a fact. I've never used my allergies as an excuse to get out of something, but there was one day a couple of years ago when I couldn't do much of anything because of a major flare-up. Therefore, I hope this is a mild season in the region where I work and live. The drug companies and most investors probably hope that isn't the case.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com