Merck KGaA has posted a reasonable set of financials for the second quarter, although competition from oral therapies is beginning to hurt sales of the German firm’s multiple sclerosis drug Rebif.

Net income was down 4.1% to 303.3 million euros, while sales were up 1.9% to 2.80 billion euros, despite being hit by negative foreign exchange effects of around 4.5%. The company noted that “strong currency headwinds” overshadowed solid organic sales growth at its Merck Serono unit where turnover dipped 1.4% to 1.45 billion euros.

Rebif (interferon beta-1a) was down 7.0% to 464 million euros “against the backdrop of an increasingly difficult competitive situation” and price rises last year did not compensate for lower sales hit by pills such as Novartis' Gilenya (fingolimod), Biogen Idec’s Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate) and Sanofi’s Aubagio (teriflunomide). In June, Merck pulled the plug on investigational MS drug after “considering the significant change in market circumstances”.

The colorectal/head and neck cancer drug Erbitux (cetuximab) contributed 229 million euros, up 6.5% despite negative currency effects of -4.9%. Sales of the fertility drug Gonal-f (follitropin)rose 3.9% to 161 million euros, helped by a strong showing in China.

Merck chairman Karl-Ludwig Kley described the quarter as sold, noting that all of the company’s businesses performed well inn the emerging markets, saying that its focus “on this attractive region is visibly paying off”. On a conference call, he repeated his view that Merck could join the M&A merry-go-round, thanks to its strong balance sheet and cash flow “but we don't have to pursue acquisitions”.