Merck gives up on unsuccessful Januvia combo drug Juvisync

Merck ($MRK) may have some dark clouds hanging overhead, but its multibillion-dollar diabetes franchise can usually be counted on for a bit of shine. As it announced cuts to its full-year sales forecast in July, Merck was able to point to growth in sales of Januvia and its offshoots, if only in the low-single-digit range.

So, naturally, Merck has tried to develop that franchise further--and unfortunately, its efforts haven't been so successful. It gave up on developing a pill combining Januvia (sitagliptin) with the now-off-patent Pfizer statin Lipitor. And now, a Januvia-statin combo that did win approval is getting the ax.

As the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, Merck plans to stop selling Juvisync, which combines Januvia and Zocor (simvastatin), the once-blockbuster cholesterol fighter. Distribution in the U.S. and Puerto Rico will cease. Approved in October 2011, the drug just never got off the ground.

Theoretically, the advantages are clear; diabetics do have an increased risk of heart disease, and statin drugs do have proven abilities to fight heart disease. The American Diabetes Association recommends statin therapy for diabetes patients with heart disease. And as Juvisync won the FDA nod, Merck figured that up to 8 million Type 2 diabetes patients should be taking a statin but weren't.

"This decision is for business reasons only and is not due to the efficacy or safety profile of Juvisync or the individual components," the company said in a statement (as quoted by the Inquirer).

One Januvia combo has come through for Merck, however. Janumet, which pairs Januvia with the standard diabetes treatment metformin, brought in more than $1.6 billion for Merck last year.

- get more from the Inquirer

Special Reports: 10 Top-Selling Diabetes Drugs 2012 | Top Pharma Companies by 2012 Revenues - Merck

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