Merck's hustle helps offset Singulair's declines

For the second quarter in a row, Merck has surprised the market with a better-than-expected earnings picture. Job cuts and sales hustle helped Merck ($MRK) offset a 55% hit to its former top seller, asthma medicine Singulair, which went off patent in August.

The drugmaker today released earnings that beat analysts' estimates by 2 cents a share, Bloomberg reports. Excluding one-time items, earnings were 95 cents a share and net income was up 2% to 56 cents a share.

The top line was helped by its diabetes treatments and growth in emerging markets. The company squeezed a 15% increase out of its diabetes drug Januvia and 16% more out of Janumet, which combines Januvia with an older diabetes drug. Emerging markets made up a 5th of the quarterly sales, with 19% growth in China leading that area.

The company has been preparing for patent losses for several years by waging war on expenses. Last year, it made more workforce cuts in an effort to wring about $1.5 billion out of its expense side. The company last year said it would cut about 12,000 to 13,000 more jobs, putting total workforce reductions since its 2009 merger with Schering-Plough at an estimated 30%.

Last quarter, Merck also surprised, but then it still had Singulair to lean on. The company is believed to have a good-looking future, with a slate of promising treatments in its pipeline. It announced today that it expects to offer up for approval next year its insomnia drug suvorexant, osteoporosis treatment odanacatib, and Tredaptive for lowering cholesterol. 

- here's the Bloomberg story

Special Report: Merck - Top 10 pharma layoffs of 2011