Merck and Schering-Plough are in bed together, again. (One wonders if a merger will be the climax of their collaborations somewhere down the line?) This time it’s their new combination of loratadine (Claritin) and montelukast (Singulair) which was accepted for review by the FDA on August 28. In my opinion, it’s only a matter of time before the two companies are given the green light to start selling it.
This combo is not unlike their Vytorin arrangement, which is actually a pretty decent combination both therapeutically and financially: Vytorin is no more expensive than Zetia by itself, which makes it a good deal for consumers and insurers alike. (And there’s also the more mundane fact that there’s one less pill to take, and the fact that ezetimibe is of questionable value when prescribed alone.)
Because Claritin is now OTC, it is simultaneously more and less valuable to Schering-Plough. Less valuable because you can’t charge as much for it as you could when it was Rx-only because no one would buy it — and more valuable because you’ve got a potential market limited only by the number of people in the United States. I know I recommend (generic) Claritin pretty regularly. It works well for most people, myself included.
If the pricing is done following in the footsteps of Vytorin — which I suspect it will be — it’ll be a nice little niche drug for the two companies, and it’ll save consumers money, if not insurers. I don’t ever see it being a blockbuster like Vytorin, for obvious reasons.
One thing struck me about this deal after some thought, and it’s the new reciprocity between the two companies: Vytorin is inherently more valuable to Schering-Plough because their drug ezetimibe (Zetia) is still protected by patent, whereas Merck’s contribution — simvastatin — is not. With this new drug, the roles will be reversed. I don’t know what this means in terms of dollars and cents, but Merck’s got to be breathing a bit easier now that they’re on more equal footing with their partner.
[tags]Merck, Schering-Plough, Claritin, Singulair[/tags]