Merck KGaA has posted a sizeable 57% increase in third quarter net income to 182 million euros after banking 70 million euros in licensing payments.

The German drugmaker received a 60 million-euro payment from Takeda Pharmaceuticals of Japan relating to cancer antibody matuzumab, as well as 10 million euros from Organon for an oral contraceptive programme.

Sales came in at 1.47 billion euros, a rise of just under 9%, driven by colorectal cancer drug Erbitux (cetuximab). Sales of the jewel in Merck’s oncology portfolio climbed 15% to 59 million euros in the quarter and the drug is on target to bring in 200 million euros for 2005 as a whole, said the company.

Merck launched Erbitux in the European Union in July 2004 and now has marketing authorization for this targeted cancer treatment in 45 countries around the world. The company is also aiming to extend its use into other tumour types, notably head and neck and lung cancers [[22/07/05f]].

Sales of the Glucophage (metformin) family of oral antidiabetic products decreased 15% to 68 million euros, in line with expectations, and while follow-up Glucovance (metformin and glibenclamide) increased 65% it could not counteract Glucophage’s decline.

Merck’s generics business – now ranked third in the world marketplace - made a useful contribution, with a 6% increase in turnover to 435 million euros, while consumer healthcare rose 9% to 94 million euros. Meanwhile, Merck’s liquid crystals division sales jumped 40% to a record EUR 199 million in the third quarter.

Merck raised its sales forecast for the year and now expects ‘high single-digit' growth - compared with a previous forecast for a single-digit percentage increase- and a double-digit hike in operating growth.