Merck, which is digesting its recent purchase of Schering-Plough, on Tuesday said it plans to seek U.S. approvals for five new medicines this year.
But the world's second-biggest drugmaker, in a release, disclosed little news about its promising roster of experimental drugs ahead of a half-day meeting to discuss its research with investors at company headquarters in Whitehouse Station, N.J.
Merck , with four other experimental drugs already under review by U.S. regulators, reaffirmed it intends to increase its focus on biotech medicines — complex proteins made in living cells that treat an array of diseases.
The company, which has more than 20 drugs in late stages of development, predicted recently approved U.S. healthcare reforms would likely allow it and other drugmakers to develop their own forms of currently marketed biotech drugs once original drugs lose patent protection.
Merck said it has two such "biosimilar" drugs in development and still expects to have five biosimilar programs in late-stage tests by 2012.
But Merck said it has halted development of one such product, a long-acting form of erythropoietin — an anemia drug with a similar active ingredient as blockbuster brands sold by Johnson & Johnson .
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