Merck & Co’s earnings have leapt for the third quarter, helped by the sale of its share in the animal health business Merial and cost-cutting.

Net income came in at $3.42 billion, up from $1.09 billion in the like, year-earlier quarter, thanks to a gain of $1.7 billion received from partner Sanofi-Aventis for Merial. Revenues were up 2% to $6.05 billion, but the rise would have been 5% were it not for the negative impact of currency.

Once again, Merck’s best-selling treatment was the asthma/allergic rhinitis drug Singulair (montelukast), which rose 5% to $1.09, while revenues from the antihypertensives, Cozaar (losartan) and Hyzaar (losartan plus hydrochlorothiazide) were down 3% to $861 million

The diabetes drug Januvia (sitagliptin) performed well, generating $491 million in the quarter, up 30%, while Janumet (sitagliptin plus metformin) brought in $173 million, a leap of 72%. Turnover from the HIV drug Isentress (raltegravir) reached $197 million, up 84%.

On the negative side, combined sales of Vytorin (ezetimibe plus simvastatin) and Zetia (ezetimibe), sold with Schering-Plough, fell 7% to $1.03 billion, while the cervical cancer jab Gardasil slumped 22% to $311 million. Sales of the osteoporosis drug Fosamax (alendronate) also fell 22% to $276 million, the result of patent protection loss in the USA.

Chief executive Richard Clark seemed pleased, saying that the growth of Januvia/Janumet, Isentress and Singulair, “plus continued expense management allowed Merck to deliver strong third-quarter results". He added that “while focused on the day-to-day business priorities…we're also primed for our pending merger with S-P”, which is due to close in the fourth quarter.

S-P earnings fall
Speaking of S-P, Merck’s new partner posted a 17.2% decline in net income to $477 million, hit by charges related to its 2007 acquisition of Organon. Group turnover fell 2% to $4.50 billion and the company noted that an unfavorable foreign exchange rate had a negative impact of 6%.

Pharmaceutical revenues were flat at $3.50 billion, amid declining sales from its cholesterol joint venture with Merck for Vytorin and Zetia (see above). The anti-inflammatory Remicade (infliximab), the Johnson & Johnson drug which S-P sells outside the USA, grew 8% to $608 million, while sales of the anti-allergy medication Nasonex/Asmanex (mometasone) were up 3% at $266 million.

The brain cancer drug Temodar (temozolomide) increased 2% to $278 million, though the hepatitis C treatment PegIntron (pegylated interferon) decreased 6% to $215 million. Revenues from the antihistamine Clarinex (desloratadine) fell 7% to $164 million, due mainly to the effects of currency.

As for products S-P got hold of through its acquisition of Organon, Follistim/Puregon (follitropin beta), a fertility treatment, fell 14% to $122 million, while the contraceptive Nuvaring contributed $131 million, up 11%.

Chief executive Fred Hassan said that the quarter saw S-P deliver “operational top-line growth, reconciled bottom-line growth and major pipeline successes”. He was referring to the European launch of the arthritis drug Simponi (golimumab) and the arrival on the US market of Saphris (asenapine) for acute schizophrenia and bipolar I disorder.