Erbitux growth boosts German Merck

If you want more confirmation that drugmakers can grow sales even in this market, look no further than Merck KGaA. The German company expects to grow revenues between 6 percent and 8 percent this year, within its earlier guidance of 5-9 percent. And it's still predicting margins of at least 23 percent on those sales.

For the quarter, Merck reported profits of €200.1 million, or $251.8 million, compared with €36.2 million a year ago (when the company booked a €183 million charge on its buyout of Serono). Revenues for the quarter grew 8.7 percent to €1.89 billion. And unlike U.S. companies, whose sales were often inflated by currency gains, Merck's numbers reflect a "considerable" negative impact from currency, cutting organic sales growth by 4.8 percent.

Digging deeper, Merck's fastest-growing drugs were Erbitux, the cancer treatment marketed in the U.S. by Bristol-Myers Squibb and ImClone Systems, which mushroomed by 13 percent to €134 million. Rebif, Merck's multiple sclerosis treatment, grew by 10 percent to €338 million.

- read the story in the Wall Street Journal