In a video posted on investing Website Motley Fool, contributing writer Max Chatsko says there are a couple of “red flags” investors should be aware of regarding Merck’s bestselling Januvia/Janumet franchise for treating type 2 diabetes.
Revenue from that franchise fell 2 percent in the first quarter of 2013, compared to the same period in 2012. And while that may not seem like much, the same franchise had double-digit growth almost every quarter since its launch.
In fact, revenue grew 18 percent for the fourth quarter of 2012, compared to the same period of 2011.
Chatsko said that may be due in part to a recent study linking the class of type 2 diabetes drugs called GLP-1 antagonists, which include both Januvia and Bristol Myers Squibb’s Byetta, with pancreatitis. Chatsko said pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas that can lead to cancer and kidney failure.
That data was out for only five weeks of the quarter, Chatsko said, so it’s difficult to say what the precise impact on sales may have been. But from investors’ perspective, he said, “it’s definitely something to watch going forward.”
He also advised investors to be aware of some competition for Januvia that’s on the way.
The FDA recently approved the first of a new class of diabetes drug called SGLT2 inhibitors – Invokana, from Johnson & Johnson. More SGLT2 inhibitors are on the way from Pfizer and Eli Lilly, which could hit the market as soon as 2015.
Chatsko said SGLT2 inhibitors aren’t linked to the same risks as GLP-1 antagonists, which could eventually give the former an edge among prescribing doctors.
Overall, Merck’s revenue for the first quarter is down about 9 percent, compared to a year ago. In addition to its problems with Januvia, the company has been facing some generic competition for other types of medication, Chatsko said.
You should consult with a doctor if you have any ongoing symptoms or health concerns, and before making any changes in medication. You should also consult with a Lopez McHugh attorney if you or a loved one was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer after taking Januvia or Byetta.
See the video here: