Fortune scolds Merck for "risky" programs

Fortune writer John Simons is taking Merck to task for two development programs he finds particularly risky. "The riskiest of Merck's current projects is taranabant," writes Simons, "a treatment that until recently was hailed as an elegant solution for attacking excess weight. Rather than working in the gut, taranabant manipulates the brain to suppress appetite. More specifically, the drug acts on the same receptors in the brain that cause marijuana-smokers to experience hunger. Taranabant, in essence, causes a patient to experience the reverse-munchies."

Psychiatric side effects could derail that program, says Fortune. The there's the cholesterol medicine, anacetripib, which bears far too close a resemblance for Simons to Pfizer's infamous torcetrapib. Towards the end of the piece there's at least one analyst willing to agree that Merck is taking big risks, but stands to gain enormous rewards. Sounds like the kind of bet the Big Pharma developers should make more often if they want to find a way to a brighter, richer future. The last thing biopharma needs now is an even more cautious approach to drug development.

- read the Fortune article

ALSO: Take a look at Merck's R&D pipeline. Report

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