Venezuela hit in 2016 assumes negligible revenues for Merck

Merck ($MRK) said its guidance assumes negligible revenues from Venezuela in 2016, following similar warnings from Abbott Laboratories ($ABT), Roche ($RHBBY) and Pfizer ($PFE) on fourth-quarter earnings calls.

Rob Davis, chief financial officer, spoke about overall revenues for the coming year in the single-digit growth range as executives on the Feb. 3 call discussed oncology therapy Keytruda (pembrolizumab)‎ and hepatitis C therapy Zepatier (elbasvir and grazoprevir) in some detail, but not specific plans for those products outside of the United States.

"Our guidance range also assumes negligible revenues from Venezuela compared to $625 million in the full year 2015," Davis said on the call.

Chairman and CEO Ken Frazier briefly discussed the impact of Zepatier and Keytruda as "expected to contribute meaningfully above the impact of the products that are losing exclusivity."

Merck Chairman and CEO Ken Frazier  

But outside of a comment by Adam Schechter, president of Global Human Health, generally on expected price cuts slated for Japan reimbursements that may hit Januvia (sitagliptin) and a continued hit to Remicade (infliximab) from biosimilars, nothing was discussed on how the two key therapies of Keytruda and Zepatier might do in Asia.

"We are seeing substitution of existing patients in some smaller markets such as the Nordics," Schechter said of Remicade sales outside of the U.S. "At this point in time, we are not seeing it in the larger markets. But we continue to anticipate that the impacts of biosimilars is going to accelerate as we got into 2016, as there is more and more new patients coming into the market and they become a larger percent of the sale."

In Japan, price cuts for widely prescribed drugs by Japan's Central Social Insurance Medical Council, known as Chuikyo, are slated to start with the new fiscal year in April. Reports suggest some drug prices could be cut in half.

On top of that, an every-other-year price cut exercise in April may aim for savings of nearly $1.5 billion.

- here's the release