Merck medications and products, company drugs
January 20 2016 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.


Merck & Co., Inc. is a global pharmaceutical drug company established in 1891. Merck discovers, develops, manufactures and markets vaccines and medicines. Merck is a Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based drug maker.


Merck Drugs

Arcoxia -  Merck & Co. Inc. sent data on heart risks to U.S. regulators in answer to concerns about its long-delayed arthritis drug Arcoxia, a potential successor to the withdrawn painkiller Vioxx. Merck expects the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's latest review of Arcoxia  until the end of April, 2007. Arcoxia is in the same class as Vioxx, which Merck pulled off the market in September 2004 after a clinical trial found it increased the risk of heart attack and stroke. Arcoxia is currently available in 62 countries but has been under review by the FDA since December 2003. Analysts are skeptical about its U.S. prospects in the wake of the withdrawal of Vioxx, which had annual sales of $2.5 billion. Merck said it is initially seeking approval of Arcoxia in 30-milligram and 60-milligram strengths for the symptomatic treatment of osteoarthritis.


2010, Drugmaker Merck & Co's one-time blockbuster arthritis drug Vioxx doubled the risk of heart attacks and was not fit for sale, an Australian court said, in a ruling against the U.S. group's Australian unit.

CANCIDAS (caspofungin acetate)
COSOPT (dorzolamide hydrochloride and timolol maleate)
COZAAR (losartan potassium)

CRIXIVAN (indinavir sulfate)
EMEND (aprepitant)
Fosamax (alendronate sodium) is from Merck and competes with Actonel from Sanofi-Aventis. Fosamax is indicated for osteoporosis.
    Sept 2009 - Jurors heard sharply different closing arguments in a trial over whether or not Merck & Co's Fosamax drug treatment for osteoporosis caused a Florida woman's jaw damage. The trial in New York is Merck's first out of some 1,280 plaintiff groups involving almost 900 cases over U.S. lawsuits by patients who claim Fosamax caused the condition known as osteonecrosis of the jaw.
   Sept 2009 - A Manhattan federal judge has rejected Merck & Co's effort to dismiss 24 cases alleging that its Fosamax drug treatment for osteoporosis causes jaw damage. In an opinion, U.S. District Judge John Keenan ruled that the plaintiffs could introduce testimony by two doctors to show that the drug can cause jaw damage after less than three years of continuous use. Judge John Keenan said the evidence is sufficiently reliable to allow a rational jury to establish such a connection. He said individual plaintiffs will then be allowed to present expert testimony that Fosamax caused them to suffer such damage, and that such testimony could by itself "make causation a genuine issue of fact for trial."
   A lawsuit alleging that Merck & Co's osteoporosis drug Fosamax (generic name alendronate sodium) caused jaw damage ended in a mistrial.
FOSAMAX PLUS D (alendronate sodium/cholecalciferol)
HYZAAR (losartan potassium and hydrochlorothiazide)
INVANZ (ertapenem sodium)
Januvia is manufactured by Merck and Co., Inc., Whitehouse Station, N.J. for the treatment of diabetes and blood sugar control. Januvia won U.S. approval in October, 2006 to treat adults with type 2 diabetes. Januvia belongs to a new class of medicines called DPP-4 inhibitors that work by enhancing the body's own ability to lower blood sugar. It does not seem to weight gain, an advantage over some older diabetes treatments. Weight gain is considered an especially serious disadvantage, as patients who gain weight tend to stop taking their medications and as obesity is one of the leading causes of type 2 diabetes. Januvia has the chemical name sitagliptin.
MAXALT (rizatriptan benzoate)
PROPECIA (finasteride) is indicated for hair growth.
Proscar (finasteride) is indicated for the treatment of BPH.
SINGULAIR (montelukast sodium)
VIOXX (rofecoxib) is a COX-2 inhibitor. December 2006 - A Texas judge has entered a verdict of about $8.7 million against Merck & Co. over its withdrawn Vioxx painkiller. A jury in Starr County, Texas had awarded $32 million in April to the family of a 71-year-old man who had taken the drug. A judgment by Judge Alex Gabert entered Dec. 21 reduced the punitive damages in the case, pursuant to state limits. Merck intends to file a motion for a new trial based on the evidence the company said it uncovered of an improper financial relationship between the plaintiff and one of the jurors, said Tilden Katz, a spokesperson for Merck's outside legal counsel.
VYTORIN - January 2008 - Merck & Co and Schering-Plough Corp revealed their shared Vytorin cholesterol treatment failed to significantly halt clogging of arteries better than simvastatin. The failure of Vytorin to prove greater effectiveness in this measure over Zocor -- which is available in cheaper generic forms -- hurts its standing in the hotly competitive market for cholesterol treatments.
ZOCOR (simvastatin) is used for cholesterol levels.

Merck Vaccines

ROTATEQ (Rotavirus Vaccine, Live, Oral, Pentavalent) - Merck & Co. will donate an oral vaccine to all infants in Nicaragua for three years to prevent severe diarrhea from a virus that annually kills 600,000 children worldwide under age 5. "We hope to vaccinate 150,000 infants during each of the three years," said Margaret McGlynn, president of Merck vaccines. Merck said the three-year supply of its Rotateq vaccine is worth about $75 million and that the company will also provide technical assistance over the period, including educating parents about the vaccine and steering them to sites where children can receive it. "For the first three years we'll provide the vaccine free; afterwards Merck will provide it at a dramatically reduced price" in Nicaragua. Should the vaccine save lives and prevent hospitalizations in Nicaragua, Merck said that success could encourage other nations to ensure their infants are likewise immunized against the rotavirus.

GARDASIL [Quadrivalent Human Papillomavirus (Types 6,11,16,18) Recombinant Vaccine] - Merck & Co Inc's Gardasil, the first vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, was endorsed by a panel of European experts in August 2006, bringing mass vaccination against the killer disease a step nearer. Gardasil, viewed by analysts as a multibillion-dollar-a-year seller, is a new kind of vaccine that prevents cervical cancer by protecting against the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV) which can trigger tumors. Gardasil could eventually sell more than $3 billion a year worldwide - even with a rival product from GlaxoSmithKline Plc , called Cervarix.
   The new vaccine for cervical cancer will have a government-subsidized vaccine program for schoolchildren. The vaccine Gardasil prevents cervical cancer by protecting against the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV), which can trigger the disease, one of the most common cancers in women. Merck said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention included Gardasil in its Vaccines for Children program, under which the government buys vaccines for uninsured or poor schoolchildren. The vaccine is intended to be given to young girls before they become sexually active. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine in June, 2006 for use in girls and women ages 9 to 26.


2007 - Merck & Co. is helping bankroll efforts to pass state laws requiring girls as young as 11 or 12 to receive the new vaccine by Merck against the sexually transmitted cervical-cancer virus. Some critics say the push by Merck for such laws is underhanded. But Merckcompany said its lobbying efforts have been above-board. With at least 18 states debating whether to require Merck Gardasil vaccine for schoolgirls, Merck has funneled money through Women in Government, an advocacy group made up of female state legislators around the country.


2007 - Merck is suspending its lobbying campaign to persuade state legislatures to mandate that adolescent girls get the the Gardasi vaccine against cervical cancer as a requirement for school attendance. Merck had been criticized by parents and doctors' groups for quietly funding the campaign via a third party to require 11- and 12-year-old girls get the three-dose vaccine in order to attend school. Some had objected because the vaccine protects against a sexually transmitted disease, human papilloma virus, which causes cervical cancer. Vaccines mandated for school attendance usually are for diseases easily spread through casual contact. "Our goal is about cervical cancer prevention and we want to reach as many females as possible with Gardasil," said Dr. Richard M. Haupt, Merck's medical director for vaccines. "We're concerned that our role in supporting school requirements is a distraction from that goal, and as such have suspended our lobbying efforts," Haupt said, adding that Merck will continue providing information about the Gardasil vaccine if requested by government officials. Merck launched Gardasil, the first vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, in June 2006. Merck was channeling money for its state-mandate campaign through Women in Government, an advocacy group made up of female state legislators across the country.


2009 - The Food and Drug Administration strengthened warnings on Merck & Co.'s Gardasil vaccine about fainting after receiving reports of "traumatic injuries" among some vaccine recipients.

ZOSTAVAX [Zoster Vaccine Live (Oka / Merck)]

Merck Lawsuits

2007 - Merck & Co. will pay $4.85 billion to end thousands of lawsuits over its painkiller Vioxx in what is believed to be the largest drug settlement ever.


2006 - The lawyer for a former FBI agent has told a jury that Vioxx caused his client's heart attack and the blockbuster drug's maker Merck & Co Inc. ignored danger signs from its withdrawn pain medicine. A lawyer from Merck's said former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Jerry Barnett, 62, was at risk of heart attack without the drug due to high cholesterol, a family history of cardiac problems, and cardiovascular disease, and that Merck had thoroughly tested Vioxx. Barnett had used the withdrawn arthritis medicine longer than any previous plaintiff in a Vioxx product liability lawsuit. The result of the case before U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon may signal future outcomes in many of some 14,200 lawsuits Merck is facing, since it centers on a man who used the drug for a substantial period of time. Merck pulled Vioxx, which generated $2.5 billion-a-year in sales, from the market in September 2004 after a study showed it doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke in those who took it for at least 18 months.
     Update - Merck failed to warn doctors about the risks of its painkiller Vioxx and must pay a retired FBI agent $50 million to compensate for the heart attack he suffered after taking the drug. The jury also found that Merck & Co. "knowingly misrepresented or failed to disclose" information about the drug to retired FBI agent Gerald Barnett's doctors. On its verdict sheet, the jury had the chance to assign percentages of fault to Merck and various physicians, but assigned blame only to Merck.

September 30, 2004, Merck announced that rofecoxib ( Vioxx ) doubled the risk of myocardial infarction and stroke, and the company withdrew the drug from the market after 5 years of use in more than 20 million patients.


Merck Manuals

Merck publishes The Merck Manuals, a series of medical reference books for physicians, nurses, and technicians. These include the Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, the world's best-selling medical reference.

Merck provides all of The Merck Manuals on a not-for-profit basis.

The Merck Manual -- Second Home Edition The Merck Manual--Second Home Edition
The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy
The Merck Manual of Health and Aging
Manual of Geriatrics
The Merck Index - A one-volume encyclopedia of chemicals, drugs and biologicals
The Merck Veterinary Manual


Merck Acquisitions
German drugmaker Merck KGaA bought Europe's biggest biotech firm Serono for $13.3 billion, creating a new force in European pharmaceuticals. Merck, which earlier in 2006 failed in its bid to buy rival Schering, has struck a deal with Serono's founding Bertarelli family to buy their 64.5-percent stake.


Merck & Co. in October 2006 acquired biotechnology firm Sirna Therapeutics Inc. for $1.1 billion in cash to gain a stronger foothold in the promising drug-development technology of RNA interference. Sirna has been working to create a new class of medicines based on RNA interference technology in the area of cancer research. RNA, or ribonucleic acid, is the molecule that transmits the genetic information encoded in DNA. By using chemically altered double-stranded RNA molecules as drugs, the technology is meant to block production of proteins linked to an array of diseases -- including cancer, hepatitis C and respiratory ailments.


Merck Tax Dispute
November 2006 - Drug maker Merck & Co. faces a potential $5.58 billion in tax liabilities from U.S and Canadian authorities related to a number of disputes over accounting for past transactions. Merck said in the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it disagrees with the proposed tax adjustments and plans to pursue the matters through Internal Revenue Service and judicial procedures, as necessary.


Merck profits 2008
Merck & Co forecast earnings would rise in 2008 as sales of new medicines offset the loss of exclusive U.S. rights to its Fosamax osteoporosis drug. Merck projected sales of its Singulair respiratory drug would grow to $4.6 billion to $4.8 billion in 2008. Sales of its vaccines are expected to rise to $4.8 billion to $5.2 billion. Other new drugs driving results next year should include its diabetes medicines Januvia and Janumet and its HIV drug Isentress.


Q. Does saw palmetto work as well as Propecia for hair loss?
   A. I don't think so.