The drug: Odanacatib
The disease: Osteoporosis
The developer: Merck
Peak sales potential: $2.5 billion (Barclays)

For a Big Pharma company that spends $8 billion on R&D, Merck doesn't get much respect on the development side of the business. The company hopes that odanacatib (once MK-0822), along with an interesting sleep drug dubbed suvorexant, can help change that.

Back in July, Merck announced that it was slamming the brakes on the Phase III study for odanacatib after concluding ahead of schedule that the drug worked as expected. For Barclays, the news of the early halt spurred an ambitious projection of $2.5 billion in potential peak sales. Others saw this as an expected outcome but retained much more modest expectations on the sales side.

The idea here is that a drug that inhibits cathepsin K can restore the biological balance necessary for bone formation, combatting the bone loss seen in osteoporosis. Merck studied its efficacy in 16,000 patients over 5 years at 387 sites around the world.

Suvorexant, meanwhile, represents Merck's bid to wake up the dormant insomnia market. Some analysts project sales over the $1 billion mark.

For more:
Merck's osteoporosis drug 'odana' clinches promising PhIII data
Merck steers top drug prospect to an NDA, analysts ponder R&D weakness
Merck highlights sleep drug ahead of FDA submission


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