Merck & Co's quarterly results have again been hit by unfavourable exchange rates and patent expiries but the firm has posted a rise in profits.

Net income came in at $1.70 billion, up from $1.59 billion in the first quarter last year, although turnover declined 4% to $10.26 billion. The asthma blockbuster Singulair (montelukast) sank 20% to $271 million, while the anti-allergy medicine Nasonex (mometasone) fell 19% to $312 million.

The company's best-selling med is the diabetes drug Januvia (sitagliptin) which generated $858 million, down 3%, though Janumet (sitagliptin plus metformin) brought in $476 million, a rise of 16%. Turnover from the HIV drug Isentress (raltegravir) reached $390 million, up 8%, while sales of the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil slipped 2% to $383 million.

The cholesterol drugs Vytorin (ezetimibe plus simvastatin) and Zetia (ezetimibe) reached $361 million and $611 million, down 8% and 3% respectively. The anti-inflammatory Remicade (infliximab), the Johnson & Johnson drug which Merck sells outside the USA, contributed $604 million, up 10%.

Chief executive Kenneth Frazier (pictured) said that "investing in the best opportunities for growth while being disciplined in managing our costs enabled us to deliver bottom-line performance". He added that "this is an exciting time as we prepare to commercialise the next wave of innovation coming out of Merck’s research labs over the next few years".

Bayer offers animal health for Merck consumer ops - Reuters

Causing more excitement at the moment are reports that Bayer is offering to swap its animal health operations for Merck's consumer healthcare business, the latter being valued at around $14 billion.

Reuters has reported that the German group is planning to offer to pay the remainder of the acquisition price in cash, citing unnamed people familiar with the proposed bid. Reckitt Benckiser has also registered its interest in the Merck unit.