Who's going to fill their shoes? That's the question facing big pharmaceutical firms these days. Many of the biggest blockbuster drugs have lost patent exclusivity, forcing companies to scramble to replace the revenue streams generated by these drugs.
Merck (NYSE: MRK ) is no exception. The company saw sales for its leading drug, Singulair, drop by 16% in the first nine months of 2012 compared to the same period in the previous year. Sales for its third-biggest selling drug, Remicade, fell by 29%.
Some of Merck's drugs currently on the market are gaining ground. For example, diabetes drugs Januvia and Janumet increased sales by 25% and 23%, respectively. But what about the prospects for drugs in Merck's pipeline? Let's look at three potential winners that are on the way.
Merck placed a big bet earlier this year on cancer drug vintafolide. The company paid Endocyte (NASDAQ: ECYT ) $120 million up front with the potential for $880 million more if things go well.
Vintafolid is currently in a phase 3 study for use in treating ovarian cancer and in a phase 2 study for non-small-cell lung cancer. Should it gain approval for treating ovarian cancer, vintafolid will face competition from existing drugs including Eli Lilly's (NYSE: LLY ) Gemzar and Bristol-Myers Squibb's (NYSE: BMY ) Taxol.
According to industry observers, the ovarian cancer drug market is projected to be around $2.3 billion by 2020, while the non-small-cell lung cancer drug market should reach $6.9 billion by 2019. Merck's bet on vintafolid might be big, but the pay-off potential could be even bigger
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