Merck & Co chief executive Kenneth Frazier says that the US giant is looking at acquisitions of products after coming through a tough 2011.

Speaking at the Goldman Sachs' Healthcare CEO's Unscripted: A View from the Top event in New York, Mr Frazier (pictured) began by saying that last year began badly after its much-touted blood clotter vorapaxar has been pulled from one major study and discontinued from stroke patients in another. He added that "you could say we underperformed" in 2011 but "the question is how do you build a sustainable enterprise that can take those bumps and power through them".

He noted that deals were signed with China's Simcere and India's Sun Pharma "that will position us well going into those markets" and "we continued to deliver on the synergies. We have about $2.8 billion of our $3.5 billion net synergies target in the bag and then we announced another $1.3 billion to $1.5 billion over and above that".

Mr Frazier said that going forward, Merck is excited about Tredaptive (extended-release niacin/laropiprant) for atherosclerosis, suvorexant for insomnia, the osteoporosis treatment odanacatib, a cervical cancer vaccine called V503 and Bridion (sugammadex) for the reversal of neuromuscular blockade.

The CEO went on to say that "we still are on target for about 25% of our sales in 2013 being in emerging markets". However, in many countries he seems to prefer alliances to acquisitions, saying "we are not so sure, as a management team, we know how to run an Indian company better than the Indians do or a Chinese company better than the Chinese people do".

Mr Frazier added that "my goal is to augment the pipeline" and find assets "that we can acquire on terms where we believe we can create value for shareholders over the long term". He noted that historically for Merck, "the sweet spot has been earlier rather than late, but we are also looking at Phase II compounds and the occasional Phase III compounds".