Merck quietly scuttles another cholesterol combo program

Just three months after quietly snuffing its late-stage development program for the cholesterol combo MK-0524B, Merck has once again quietly doused development efforts on a new cholesterol therapy. MK-0431E, once in line for a 2014 regulatory filing, was killed for unspecified business reasons, according to Dow Jones.

This new therapy combined its blockbuster diabetes drug Januvia with the hugely popular Lipitor, Pfizer's ($PFE) statin, which recently has been battered by generic competition. About the only light Merck ($MRK) chose to shed on this case was that the decision to scuttle the program had nothing to do with safety issues. 

Back in August Merck said it was ending work on MK-0524B, a combination of niacin and simvastatin (the heart drug Zocor) and laropiprant, after concluding that the drug's commercial prospects no longer warranted the investment needed to get an approval.

Merck often stays mum on its R&D efforts, reluctant to highlight much of anything that isn't being groomed as a potential blockbuster, like the sleep drug suvorexant. Merck also recently sought to assure investors that late-stage work on the cholesterol drug Tredaptive was on schedule to be completed late this year. U.S. and European applications are expected to be filed in 2013.

- here's the story from Dow Jones (sub. req.)

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