Merck Manual: May "Help" Patients But What About Its Stock?


In my mail slot this morning I found a complimentary copy of a new version of the "Merck Manual."

Thanks, Merck.

It'll be put to good use here in the CNBC newsroom where co-workers seem to think that just because my producer and I cover pharma that we're able to diagnose their or their loved ones' ailments, recommend the right drug and get them free samples.

Needless to say, but I'll say it anyway, we don't do any of that. This edition is called, "The Merck Manual of Patient Symptoms" and unlike the popular, thick hardcover one that's been published across three centuries, this new one comes in a handy-dandy paperback.

As the press release that came with it says, "Compact enough to carry in a lab coat pocket, the paperback helps health care practitioners, particularly those who are newcomers to clinical diagnosis, understand and evaluate a wide range of symptoms."

Excuse me? I don't know about you, but I don't think I want to see a nurse practitioner, physician assistant or med student at a teaching hospital whip out a "Merck Manual" to figure out what's wrong with me. Can you say, "I want a second opinion"?

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Meantime, investors are trying to figure out what's ailing Merck. The stock hit another new intra-day low this morning of around 30-and-a-half bucks. MRK is one of a handful of Dow components not participating in today's rally--at least, not yet. (Pfizer, by the way, is up significantly for the second straight day).

What could be pressuring MRK is a bearish call by Steve Scala at Cowen and Company. This morning he put out a research note to clients cutting his earnings estimates from this year all the way through 2015. Scala still has an "Outperform" rating on MRK, but he's reducing sales estimates for the HPV/cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil and the allergy/asthma drug Singulair. And he thinks MRK will have to lower its earnings guidance soon because of that. On the plus side, Scala--like many other analysts--points to the nearly five percent dividend yield.

Scala owns MRK stock. He's long, not short.

Now, if only Merck had a manual on how to fix the economy, credit crisis and financial markets.

Questions? Comments?