Merck reaffirms cardiovascular research commitment

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Merck has reaffirmed its commitment to discovering and developing new treatments for a range of cardiovascular disorders at the company's 50th anniversary of the launch of its first pharmaceutical, designed for cardiovascular disease.

The company said it continues to invest nearly $5 billion a year in research and develop to identify new therapies, including cardiovascular disease. Merck said it has more than 1,200 scientists and employees dedicated to heart disease and eight new drug candidates in cardiovascular research and development for diseases, such as heart failure, hypertension, the metabolic syndrome and dyslipidemia.

The reaffirmation comes on the heels of recent cost-cutting ventures. In October, company announced plans to eliminate approximately 12 percent of its work force, or 7,200 jobs, by the end of 2011—40 percent of which will occur in the U.S. Many attributed this layoff round to the falling sales of Zetia and Vytorin.

And, recently, a Merck competitor, the New York City-based Pfizer decided to abandon heart disease drug pipeline, as part of its broad research reshuffling.

However, Merck said it is forming external collaborations and partnerships in the cardiovascular field. The Whitehouse, N.J.-based company has collaborations with Actelion Pharmaceuticals to evaluate drugs for hypertension; Advinus Therapeutics to discover and develop drugs for metabolic syndrome; Arena Pharmaceuticals to develop novel agents for lipid management; NicOx to develop antihypertensive drugs; and the High Risk Plaque Initiative to advance the understanding and management of high-risk atherosclerotic plaque.

Merck also said it supports cardiovascular education and independent research programs, like several American Heart Association (AHA) initiatives such as the Pharmaceutical Roundtable, Get With The Guidelines: Coronary Artery Disease and Stroke, Go Red For Women, and the AHA Annual Scientific Sessions and Exhibits. Merck also sponsors The Giant Heart at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.