Merck wins FDA nod for new combo drug for diabetes and high cholesterol

As Merck ($MRK) works on building up its ever-important diabetes business, U.S. regulators have stamped an approval on the drug giant's combo therapy for patients with type 2 diabetes who also have high cholesterol, the FDA announced this morning. The combo drug, Juvisync, combats the growing problem of diabetics who struggle to control their cholesterol.

Juvisync is a combo of Merck's previously approved diabetes drug Januvia and the cholesterol-lowering pill simvastatin contained in a single tablet, and the FDA said it was the first drug that packs the one-two punch of helping patients control their blood sugar and cholesterol in one pill.

With more than 20 million Americans with diabetes, drugmakers such as Merck, Eli Lilly ($LLY) and many others have made the market a major priority and funneled big dollars into R&D in the field in pursuit of novel therapies. For Merck, the approval could induce further growth of blockbuster Januvia sales, which were up an impressive 30% to $779 million during the second quarter, Reuters reported. And the company expects to be able to serve the needs of millions of diabetics who are believed to have high cholesterol and aren't taking medication for it.

Merck's Januvia is a DPP-4 inhibitor that is designed the help diabetics control their blood sugar levels and garnered approval in 2006 for use in combination with diet and exercise. As Reuters reports, the drug has been sold previously in another combination that include the diabetes treatment metformin.

- here's the FDA release
- read the AP report
- and Reuters' article