Merck & Co's chief executive Kenneth Frazier has again put up a staunch defence for the firm's policy of continuing to invest heavily in R&D at a time when many of its peers are cutting back.

Speaking at a breakfast event hosted by the Wall Street Journal, Mr Frazier (pictured) said that "the most sustainable strategy is innovation," adding that "translating science into medically important products has always been at the core of how Merck defines itself in the world." The US drugs giant has seen its share price remain stable over the last year as investors express concern over the return on investment in R&D.

However, Mr Frazier said that "when one runs a company like Merck that has long lead times in terms of development, I think it's important to keep in mind that you're not necessarily running the company for the immediate reaction of the stock market". He went on to say that "what we're really trying to do is run the company to create sustainable long-term value for our shareholders".

The Merck chief went on to say that "the problem with R&D is it's not always consistent, it's not like engineering where you can incrementally innovate and make another version of the iPhone". He added that "if you look in the past, there have been other fallow periods for R&D, but over the long-term science has always made progress."

Mr Frazier went on to express his concerns over pricing, saying that one of the challenges facing innovative companies is "what kind of marketplace will we have when we do come up with a new drug"? Mr Frazier stressed that many countries "are struggling to afford healthcare at the level they've promised their populations," which translates into lower prices.

However, he said that demanding ever lower prices, translates to "I don't want new drugs."