Merck & Co is expanding its presence in China by setting up a joint venture with the country's Simcere Pharmaceutical Group.

The marketing pact will see the JV initially focus on branded pharmaceutical products for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, notably Merck's Zocor (simvastatin), Cozaar (losartan) and Renitec (enalapril), as well as Simcere's Xinta (levamlodipine) and Shufutan (rosuvastatin), ie AstraZeneca's Crestor. The partnership will also "work to maximise access in China" to Merck's Januvia (sitagliptin) for type 2 diabetes, which is "increasingly recognised as a significant public health threat" in the country.

Adam Schechter, president of Merck Global Human Health, said this partnership is another step forward in the drug major's strategy "to grow our business in China and is fully aligned with the Chinese government's goal to increase access to quality products".

A year ago, Merck linked up with China’s Sinopharm Group Co, initially to cooperate on human papillomavirus and other vaccine products.