Merck and Roche Establish Strategic Agreements in Fight Against Chronic Hepatitis C

Agreements Focused on Improving Diagnosis, Awareness and Treatment of Chronic Hepatitis C and the Co-Promotion of VICTRELISTM (boceprevir)

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J., May 17, 2011 - Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside the United States, announced today that it has entered into agreements with Roche (SIX: RO, ROG; OTCQX: RHHBY), through their respective subsidiaries, to improve treatment, diagnosis and awareness of chronic hepatitis C (HCV) infection in developed and emerging markets.

In addition, researchers affiliated with both companies will collaborate to examine novel combinations of marketed and investigational medicines from both organizations to expedite the availability of potential new treatment regimens for patients with HCV.

Under the terms of the non-exclusive agreements, Roche will promote VICTRELISTM (boceprevir) to physicians as part of a triple combination therapy regimen, starting with the United States, and Merck and Roche will work together to educate physicians and patients about hepatitis C, including diagnosis. The companies are also working together to extend the agreement to other developed and emerging markets globally.

"These agreements are consistent with both companies' goal of improving healthcare outcomes for patients with chronic hepatitis C," said Adam H. Schechter, executive vice president and president, Global Human Health, Merck. "Hepatitis C often goes undetected for many years. By working together we will be able to provide physicians, nurses and patients with education about the disease, its diagnosis and treatment options including the appropriate use of VICTRELIS."

"Triple combination therapy for hepatitis C marks a major change in the way this disease is treated," said Pascal Soriot, Roche Pharmaceuticals Division, Chief Operating Officer. "The use of these medicines in combination offers better treatment outcomes for patients. Roche will work with Merck to provide health care professionals and patients with education about the management of hepatitis C. Both companies will also collaborate to develop improved therapies for this serious disease."

Important information about VICTRELIS, including safety information
 VICTRELIS was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on May 13 for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C genotype 1 infection, in combination with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin, in adult patients (18 years of age and older) with compensated liver disease, including cirrhosis, who are previously untreated or who have failed previous interferon and ribavirin therapy.

The following points should be considered when initiating VICTRELIS for treatment of chronic hepatitis C infection:

  • VICTRELIS must not be used as monotherapy and should only be used in combination with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin.
  • VICTRELIS efficacy has not been studied in patients who have previously failed therapy with a treatment regimen that includes VICTRELIS or other HCV NS3/4A protease inhibitors.
  • VICTRELIS in combination with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin has not been studied in patients documented to be historical null responders (less than a 2 log HCV-RNA decline by treatment week 12) during prior therapy with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin. The clinical studies included patients who were poorly interferon responsive. Patients with less than 0.5 log HCV-RNA decline in viral load at treatment week 4 with peginterferon alfa plus ribavirin alone are predicted to have a null response (less than a 2 log HCV-RNA decline by treatment week 12) to peginterferon alfa and ribavirin therapy.

• Poorly interferon responsive patients who were treated with VICTRELIS in combination with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin have a lower likelihood of achieving a sustained virologic response (SVR), and a higher rate of detection of resistance-associated substitutions upon treatment failure, compared to patients with a greater response to peginterferon alfa and ribavirin.


All contraindications to peginterferon alfa and ribavirin also apply since VICTRELIS must be administered with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin. Because ribavirin may cause birth defects and fetal death, VICTRELIS in combination with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin is contraindicated in pregnant women and in men whose female partners are pregnant. Avoid pregnancy in female patients and female partners of male patients. Patients must have a
negative pregnancy test prior to therapy; have monthly pregnancy tests; and use two or more forms of effective contraception, including intrauterine devices and barrier methods, during treatment and for at least 6 months after treatment has concluded. Systemic hormonal contraceptives may not be as effective in women while taking VICTRELIS and concomitant ribavirin. VICTRELIS is contraindicated in coadministration with drugs that are highly dependent on CYP3A4/5 for clearance, and for which elevated plasma concentrations are associated with serious and/or life-threatening events.

VICTRELIS also is contraindicated in coadministration with potent CYP3A4/5 inducers where significantly reduced boceprevir plasma concentrations may be associated with reduced efficacy. Drugs that are contraindicated with VICTRELIS include: alfuzosin, carbamazepine, phenobarbital, phenytoin, rifampin, dihydroergotamine, ergonovine, ergotamine, methylergonovine, cisapride, St. John's Wort (hypericum perforatum), lovastatin, simvastatin, drosperinone, Revatio® (sildenafil) or Adcirca® (tadalafil) (when used for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension), pimozide, triazolam, and midazolam (orally administered).

 Anemia has been reported with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin therapy. The addition of VICTRELIS to peginterferon alfa and ribavirin is associated with an additional decrease in hemoglobin concentrations. The addition of VICTRELIS may result in a worsening of neutropenia associated with peginterferon alfa and ribavirin alone. Complete blood counts should be obtained pretreatment, and at treatment weeks 4, 8 and 12, and should be monitored closely at other time points, as clinically appropriate. If a patient has a serious adverse reaction potentially related to peginterferon alfa and ribavirin therapy, the peginterferon alfa and/or ribavirin dose should be reduced or discontinued. VICTRELIS must not be administered in the absence of peginterferon alfa and ribavirin.

The most commonly reported adverse reactions (greater than 35 percent) in clinical trials in adult patients receiving the combination of VICTRELIS with peginterferon alfa-2b and ribavirin were fatigue, anemia, nausea, headache and dysgeusia. Of these commonly reported adverse reactions, fatigue, anemia, nausea, and dysgeusia occurred at rates greater than or equal to 5 percent above the rates for peginterferon alfa and ribavirin alone in either clinical study. The incidence of these adverse reactions in previously untreated patients that were treated with VICTRELIS combination therapy compared with peginterferon and ribavirin alone were: fatigue (58 vs. 59 percent), anemia (50 vs. 30 percent), nausea (46 vs. 42 percent), dysgeusia (35 vs. 16 percent), respectively. The incidence of these adverse reactions in previously treated patients that were treated with VICTRELIS combination therapy compared with peginterferon and ribavirin alone were: fatigue (55 vs. 50 percent), anemia (45 vs. 20 percent), nausea (43 vs. 38 percent), dysgeusia (44 vs. 11 percent), respectively.

VICTRELIS is a strong inhibitor of CYP3A4/5 and is partly metabolized by CYP3A4/5. The potential for drug-drug interactions must be considered prior to and during therapy.

Please see prescribing information at:

Merck's global commitment to advancing hepatitis therapy
 Merck is committed to building on its strong legacy in the field of viral hepatitis by continuing to discover, develop and deliver vaccines and medicines to help prevent and treat viral hepatitis. In hepatitis C, company researchers developed the first approved therapy for chronic HCV in 1991 and the first combination therapy in 1998. In addition to ongoing studies with VICTRELIS, extensive research efforts are underway to develop additional innovative oral therapies for viral hepatitis care.

About Roche
 Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Roche is a leader in research-focused healthcare with combined strengths in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics. Roche is the world's largest biotech company with truly differentiated medicines in oncology, virology, inflammation, metabolism and CNS. Roche is also the world leader in in-vitro diagnostics, tissue-based cancer diagnostics and a pioneer in diabetes management. Roche's personalised healthcare strategy aims at providing medicines and diagnostic tools that enable tangible improvements in the health, quality of life and survival of patients. In 2010, Roche had over 80,000 employees worldwide and invested over 9 billion Swiss francs in R&D. The Group posted sales of 47.5 billion Swiss francs. Genentech, United States, is a wholly owned member of the Roche Group. Roche has a majority stake in Chugai Pharmaceutical, Japan. For more information:

About Merck
 Today's Merck is a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well. Merck is known as MSD outside the United States and Canada. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and consumer care and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to healthcare through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For more information, visit

Suggested Articles

Janssen’s BCMA-targeting CAR-T therapy eliminated tumors in 69% of patients with advanced multiple myeloma in a small phase 1 study.

In a study, BMS' CAR-T therapy banished tumors in more than half and shrank tumors in nearly three-quarters of relapsed blood cancer patients.

Novartis unveiled more data showing how its asthma combo QMF149 fared against the standard of care: a combination of the same types of drugs.