The Last Of “Fast” Fred’s “Five Stars” Falls: Merck’s Zontivity® Is Done, In US

FiercePharma has done a very nice job of covering this long-developing story, while I’ve been attending to other matters.

I’ll just quote some of theirs, and point you to mine — of May of 2014, when it was approved in the US with a very narrow label. At least two other strong competitors have come on market (and three more are about to) — in the US — since May of 2014. [Prior to May of 2014, Merck had already written off some $1.7 billion on the project — so this brings the total impairment charges to almost exactly $2 billion, over about five years, or $400 million per year. Ouch.]

Of course, our hearts go out to those families whose incomes and careers are ending here. We will keep them in our morning meditiations. But in truth, this one had long been expected. Here’s the FiercePharma item, and a bit:

. . . .Merck acquired Zontivity, or vorapaxar, in its 2009 buyout of Schering-Plough. It was a first-in-class PAR-1 drug designed to compete with the old standby clot fighter warfarin in stroke patients, and analysts had pegged its peak sales as high as $5 billion per year.

But as clinical studies progressed, serious bleeding risks emerged, dashing hopes of an approval for stroke patients and limiting its potential market. Its 2014 approval included a “black box” warning about those bleeding risks. . . .

Since then, newer clot-fighters have hit the market, including AstraZeneca’s Brilinta, approved for post-heart attack treatment, and Eli Lilly’s Effient. There’s also a range of next-gen warfarin rivals, including Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer’s Eliquis; Johnson & Johnson and Bayer’s Xarelto; and Boehringer Ingelheim’s Pradaxa. Those drugs have bleeding risks of their own, but reversal agents are nearing the market. . . .

Now you know — and I do think that is the last of Fred’s five favorite candidates — from the 2008 era. Not one made anything near what Mr. Hassan was literally pounding the table claiming it would. Onward, on a glorious late summer afternoon just the same — off, to the pop-up farmers’ fresh fruit stands, here in the city, on foot. . . . smiling ear to ear.


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