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Merck's Singulair surrenders to generics posse

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They're playing a dirge at Merck today, for their blockbuster asthma-and-allergy drug Singulair. The FDA approved a host of generic competitors Friday. So, today, the decline begins--and it's likely to be swift.

Singulair accounted for $3.3 billion of Merck's ($MRK) sales last year, and it's the company's biggest seller. For the most recent full quarter, Singulair brought in $1.43 billion. But with 10 generics rolling out as we speak, Merck expects sales to drop by 90%. That's a pretty realistic assessment of the situation.

Consider Plavix's recent performance. The top-selling drug in the world until it fell off patent in May, Plavix immediately faced a phalanx of copycats. And it went down ... down ... down. Bristol-Myers ($BMY) reported a 60% year-over-year sales drop for the second quarter, to $701 million. We can only imagine the erosion percentage for the third quarter, when Plavix faces generics rivals for the entire period.

Other recent generics launches grabbed 90%-plus market share as multiple versions hit the market. Eisai's Aricept saw its share nosedive immediately; within a couple of weeks with just a couple of rivals on the market, the brand had only 27% of the market, according to Wolters Kluwer numbers. Soon after the six-month mark, when a half-dozen or so new copies hit, shares fell below 10%.

Another prime example? Merck's Cozaar, which dropped below 20% within a few weeks, and fell below 10% about four months into generic competition. Before a year was out, Cozaar's share was hovering around 5%. So, Merck has reason to be pessimistic about Singulair's shelf life.

- check out the FDA release
- read the Reuters news
- get more from the Business Standard
- see Wolters Kluwer's report (PDF)

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