Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) has announced that it will no longer market Zontivity in the US and the decision to drop the drug means 148 people responsible for sales and marketing will be looking for new jobs.
The company launched Zontivity in May 2014 in the US as a drug that prevents blood clots in patients that suffer repeated heart attacks. The drug also received regulatory approval in the UK in 2015. The company had attached a sales value estimate of $5 billion to the drug and its plan was to market it in various European countries in 2016 while still promoting it in the US. Unfortunately, Merck was unsuccessful in spreading enough awareness about the drug in Europe and the US.
Merck reported in an SEC filing that it might end up writing off the drug for roughly $292 million by the end of this year. It is however yet to confirm whether this is the intended course of action for the drug. The firm also reported that Zontivity’s sales are quite small compared to the company’s expenses and expectations. The drug currently enjoys a patent protection that will expire in 2017 though it will qualify for pediatric exclusivity for an extra six months.
The company acquired Zontivity through the acquisition of Schering-Plough in 2009. The drug was designed to rival a similar drug known as warfarin, which prevents clots in patients suffering from stroke. Analysts had estimated that the sales from the drug would average $5 billion annually. Its market was limited as a result of the bleeding risk that emerged during clinical trials for the use of the drug in stroke patients. Approval of the drug in 2014 included a warning about the possible bleeding risks associated with the drug. Merck, however, remained hopeful that Zontivity would do just fine in preventing clots for heart attack patients.