Merck & Co (US)
Merck regained a position among the world's leading pharmaceutical companies in 2010 after several years of struggles against multiple setbacks. The most serious of these were the repercussions from defects in its blockbuster arthritis medicine Vioxx. Merck withdrew that product in 2004 after publication of a report which demonstrated that it increased the risk of heart attacks in some patients. A series of lawsuits ensued, although for the most part Merck was exonerated of any fault and later announced a settlement to cover all subsequent suits. As if that were not enough to contend with, the company's flagship product Zocor lost its patent in 2006, and Merck seemed to have comparatively few other blockbusters in its pipeline. Yet the company has made a dynamic recovery since then, turning what appeared to be a clutch of minor vaccines into what are now substantial products. In 2009 it acquired smaller competitor Schering-Plough, already its partner in a global asthma and anti-cholesterol joint venture. In 2014, it took the decision to exit OTC consumer healthcare, selling its portfolio to Bayer of Germany for $14.2bn.
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Adbrands Weekly Update 11th Dec 2014: Drug giant Merck & Co agreed to pay $9.5bn including debt for Cubist Pharmaceuticals, a specialist developer of antibiotics against hospital "superbugs". Its lead product is Cubicin, sales of which had been expected to reach $2bn in 2017. However in a case of unfortunate timing, the deal announcement was followed almost immediately by a US court ruling to allow generic competition to Cubicin as soon as 2016. Cubist had been pushing for patent protection until 2020. Merck shrugged off the adverse ruling but it prompted analysts to accuse the group of overpaying for Cubist by as much as $3bn. Merck recently completed the sale of its consumer healthcare division to Bayer in order to focus on four key areas of acute hospital care, diabetes, vaccines and oncology. Earlier this year the group also acquired Idenix, a developer of hepatitis C drugs.
Adbrands Weekly Update 12th Jun 2014: Merck & Co, which recently agreed to sell its OTC portfolio to Bayer of Germany, has begun adding to its pharma portfolio with a deal to acquire biotech developer Idenix for $3.85bn. It saw off rival bids from AbbVie and Johnson & Johnson. The smaller company specialises in treatments for hepatitis C. Merck already has several products for this disease, but its position has been weakened by the spectacular success of Sovaldi, a new product from rival Gilead. Approved by the FDA only at the end of last year, Sovaldi has already become the fastest-selling drug launch in history, notching up sales of almost $2.3bn in just its first quarter on-sale, almost double analysts' forecasts.
Adbrands Weekly Update 8th May 2014: As was widely expected, Bayer triumphed in the auction of Merck & Co's consumer healthcare portfolio, securing that prize with a lavish offer of $14.2bn, around seven times revenues. The combined business will have annual revenues of over $7.0bn. Bayer's portfolio of brands, which currently include Aspirin, Aleve, One-A-Day and Supradyn vitamins among others, will be joined by Merck's mostly North American brands including Claritin, Coppertone suncare and US rights to Dr Scholl's footcare. Rival bidder Reckitt Benckiser dropped out of the auction last week.
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