Merck & Co has expanded its presence in the emerging markets by setting up a joint venture with India's Sun Pharmaceutical Industries.

The pact will see the two partners develop, manufacture and commercialise "new combinations and formulations of innovative, branded generics". The products will be developed using technologies from the Sun Pharma Advanced Research Co unit, which is a listed company.

The JV, financial details for which were not disclosed, will combine Sun's "world-class manufacturing network with Merck's clinical development and registration expertise and a broad, geographic commercial footprint". The companies added that they will focus on "innovative branded generics that bring together combinations of medicines using platform delivery technologies designed to enhance convenience for patients in emerging markets".

Kevin Ali, Merck's president for emerging markets, said the firm is making good progress executing on its plans for these areas "by establishing novel partnerships and strategic alliances". He added that the JV "helps position us for leadership in the fastest-growing geographies."

Merck quoted 'experts' who estimate that during the coming decade, the emerging markets are expected to drive 90% of the world's pharmaceutical growth, with 75% of that coming from branded generics. That growth will be driven by the burden of chronic disease, such as cardiovascular problems, diabetes and hepatitis, "along with an increasing population and economic prosperity".

Sylatron approved for melanoma

Meantime, Merck has been boosted by the news that the US Food and Drug Administration has approved its skin cancer drug Sylatron.

Specifically, the agency has backed Sylatron (peginterferon alfa-2b), which is delivered by subcutaneous injection, for the adjuvant treatment of melanoma with microscopic or gross nodal involvement within 84 days of definitive surgical resection. It is contraindicated in patients with a history of anaphylaxis to peginterferon alfa-2b or interferon alfa-2b, and those with autoimmune hepatitis or hepatic decompensation.

The approval is based on data from the European Organisation for the Research and Treatment of Cancer trial involving 1,256 patients.