PHARMACY

Merck reports Q3 earnings increase of 60-plus percent

BY Allison Cerra

TRENTON, N.J. Merck & Co.’s worth has soared.

The Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based drugmaker reported Monday it experienced a 62 percent increase in its third-quarter earnings, and its revenues increased by double digits. The company also said it amplified its full-year earnings forecast.

The company, best known for developing and marketing osteoporosis treatment Fosamax and asthma and allergy medicine Singulair, reported that its net income totaled $1.53 billion, or 70 cents per share, for the three months ended Sept. 30. The company earned $940.6 million, or 43 cents per share during the same period last year.

Revenues totaled $6.07 billion, up 12 percent from $5.4 billion a year ago.

Excluding a charge for an acquisition and a gain from a patent settlement, net income would have been 75 cents per share.

For the first nine months of the year, net income rose to $4.9 billion, or $2.24 per share, up 24 percent from $3.96 billion, or $1.81 per share, one year earlier. “Our third-quarter results reflect the continued progress Merck is making to deliver on our strategy,” chief executive officer Richard Clarke said in a statement.

Merck’s next step is marketing its experimental HIV drug, Isentress, the first in a class called integrase inhibitors that block the AIDS virus from infecting cells. The drug received FDA approval earlier this month.

Because of the successes, the company raised its 2007 earnings forecast to a range of $3.08 to $3.14 per share, excluding 21 cents worth of charges for plant closures and position eliminations under its ongoing restructuring program, from an earlier projection of $3 to $3.10 per share.

On the other hand, analysts said, Merck’s forecast may not be as rosy as expected. The company’s Vioxx painkiller, which was pulled from the market three years ago, continues to cause the company to reserve its profits for legal expenses. The company reportedly reserved a total of $1.9 billion, since Merck currently faces about 26,600 lawsuits representing 47,000 plaintiffs, and about 265 potential class action cases.

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PHARMACY

SureScripts, First Health ink pact, boosting doctors’ e-Rx data tools

BY Jim Frederick

ALEXANDRIA, Va. SureScripts, the pharmacy-sanctioned provider of electronic prescribing linkup services between pharmacists and physicians, has signed a new operating agreement with a major pharmacy benefit manager that should forge closer ties between prescribing physicians and more than a dozen state Medicaid programs.

SureScripts signed the new service pact with First Health Services, a national Medicaid fee-for-service and managed health care company serving payers in 27 states and the District of Columbia. The deal could accelerate the rollout of e-prescribing because it will offer doctors in 13 states and D.C. electronic access to medication history and formulary and eligibility information on the Medicaid patients they serve.

In line with the pact, First Health has begun testing and certification of its Pharmaceutical Services point-of-sale system to share data with physicians over the Pharmacy Health Information Exchange, operated by SureScripts. Once complete, First Health will become a SureScripts Certified Solution Provider.

“This will enable state Medicaid programs using First Health Services’ point-of-sale processing system to offer physicians who are providing care to a Medicaid patient secure, electronic access to that patient’s medication history, as well as to formulary and eligibility information in real time, during an office visit,” noted the two companies in a joint statement.

First Health manages pharmaceutical services for Medicaid programs in Alaska, Kentucky, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington, D.C. In 2008 the company will also begin to support the Pharmaceutical Services for the Florida Medicaid program.

“The collaboration with SureScripts provides secured access to real-time critical patient information for program recipients that is needed to enhance fiscal controls, reduce fraud and abuse, and promote quality care,” said Peter Quinn, chief operating officer for First Health.

According to First Health, putting information about a patient’s drug coverage at a prescribing physician’s fingertips eliminates many of the questions that often require pharmacists and PBMs to make multiple phone calls to a physician’s office every day.

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Caraco launches generic Trileptal

BY Drew Buono

DETROIT Caraco Pharmaceuticals has launched a generic version of Novartis’ Trileptal, on behalf of Sun Pharmaceuticals, who recently received approval from the Food and Drug Administration for the generic version.

The generic, oxcarbazepine, is used for monotherapy or adjunctive therapy for the treatment of partial seizures in adults as well as monotherapy and adjunctive therapy in children aged 4 years and older with epilepsy.

Trileptal had sales of about $640 million for the year ended June 30, 2007, according to IMS data. The generic will be available in three strengths, 150 mg, 300 mg and 600 mg.

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