Analyst gloomy on Merck trends

An influential pharma analyst downgraded Merck shares, saying they've hit their price ceiling. Why? The reasons can be summed up in four drugs: Singulair, Gardasil, taranabant, and Vytorin.

Sanford Bernstein's Tim Anderson wrote to investors that Singulair scrips are sluggish, and an ongoing FDA safety review could depress them further when it wraps up at year's end. Plus, Teva might launch a generic competitor next year even though it would be on shaky patent ground. Gardasil sales trends have been weak, too, Anderson says. Vytorin--and its sister cholesterol drug Zetia--have been suffering under controversy since the beginning of this year.

And then there are pipeline troubles, symbolized by the obesity drug taranabant's psychiatric side effects. Anderson thinks there's a good chance the med won't be approved. But, he says, Merck could turn this pipeline perception around in December with some good news at its annual R&D update. Guess we'll have to wait and see.

- see the Pharmalot post