Merck reports fourth quarter loss due to tax change, but strong Keytruda growth

KENILWORTH, N.J. - Sales of Merck's cancer drug Keytruda rocketed by 169 percent during 2017, but charges related to the Tax Cut and Jobs bill resulted in an $872 million loss in the fourth quarter.

Worldwide sales in fourth quarter 2017 were $10.4 billion, an increase of 3 percent over fourth quarter 2016. Full year 2017 sales were $40.1 billion, an increase of 1 percent above 2016.

Revenue in the fourth quarter and full year 2017 was unfavorably affected by lost sales in some markets related to the cyber-attack that occurred in June.

Diluted earnings per share showed a loss of 32 cents for the fourth quarter and a 93 cent gain for the year.  Excluding the tax act impact along with other acquisition, divestiture, and restructuring costs, Merck reported a gain of 98 cents per share in the fourth quarter and $3.98 for the year.

Although Merck reported a fourth quarter loss, sales of Keytruda are growing briskly.  The company reported that in a pivotal Phase 3 trial investigating Keytruda in combination with pemetrexed (Alimta) and cisplatin or carboplatin for first-line treatment of patients with metastatic non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer, the drug met its dual primary endpoints of overall survival and progressive free survival. Treatment with Keytruda in combination with pemetrexed plus platinum chemotherapy resulted in significantly longer overall survival and progression-free survival than pemetrexed and platinum chemotherapy alone. Results from the trial will be presented at an upcoming medical meeting and submitted to regulatory authorities.

Merck also said that Keytruda also received regulatory approval in Japan for the treatment of patients with radically unresectable urothelial carcinoma, and was granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation by the FDA in combination with Eisai’s multiple receptortyrosine kinase inhibitor Lenvima for the potential treatment of patients with advanced and/or metastic renal cell carcinoma.

“Our 2017 results reflect the underlying strength of our business and our ability to grow, despite significant headwinds,” said Kenneth C. Frazier, chairman and chief executive officer. “We enter 2018 with strong operating momentum, based on our key pillars of growth that will enable us to deliver on our mission of improving patients’ lives.”

For the fourth quarter of 2017 Merck reported total pharmaceutical sales of $9.29 billion an increase of 4 percent above fourth quarter 2016. Full year pharmaceutical sales were $35.39 billion, a 1 percent increase above 2016.. The top-selling pharmaceutical, Januvia/Janumet, which lowers blood sugar in type-2 diabetes patients, showed a full year 3 percent decline in sales due to pricing pressure.

The animal health division reported sales of $981 million in the fourth quarter of 2017 and $3.875 billion for the full year. This was an increase of 11 percent for both the quarter and full year above 2016 results.

Research and development expenses were $2.1 billion in the fourth quarter and $10.0 billion for the full year, a decrease of 1 percent from the previous year. Marketing and administrative expenses were $2.6 billion in the fourth quarter of 2017 and $9.8 billion for the full year, a 1 percent increase above 2016.

For full-year 2018 Merck anticipates revenue to be between $41.2 billion and $42.7 billion, including an approximately 1 percent positive impact from foreign exchange. Full year 2018 GAAP earnings per share are expected to be between $2.97 and $3.12, while non-GAAP earnings per share are expected to be between $4.08 and $4.23.

Merck (NYSE:MRK0, known as MSD outside the U.S. and Canada, is a leading pharmaceutical company that develops and markets prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies and animal health products. The company is at the forefront of research to advance the prevention and treatment of diseases including cancer, cardio-metabolic diseases, emerging animal diseases, Alzheimer’s disease and infectious diseases including HIV and Ebola.

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