Merck to axe 1,800 sales positions, form new chronic-care sales team

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Merck will terminate 1,800 sales positions and, in a corresponding move, add 960 jobs for a new chronic-care sales team.

As a part of the cuts, the drugmaker will eliminate three of its U.S. sales teams: primary care, disease-focused endocrinology, and hospital chronic-care, according to company spokesperson Claire Gillespie.  

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The new team will focus on diabetes drug Januvia and insomnia treatment Belsomra, as well as products for respiratory and women's health conditions. The unit will also support the launch of two experimental drugs, if approved: diabetes medicine ertugliflozin and a follow-on biologic of Sanofi's insulin Lantus known as Lusduna Nexvue.

The FDA's decision date for ertugliflozin is December 2017, while Lusduna Nexvue was tentatively approved by the agency in July. The latter drug's full approval hinges on the resolution of a patent-infringement lawsuit against Merck brought by Sanofi.  

Merck discontinued the development of its hepatitis-C program in October, citing increased competition and a decreasing patient population. The drugmaker also abandoned its experimental cholesterol-lowering drug anacetrapib in September after it cut the risk of death from heart attack by only 9%.

See also: Novo Nordisk settles allegations its sales reps obscured Victoza's risks

The patents for Merck's cholesterol drugs Zetia and Vytorin are set to expire in 2017. The two drugs saw combined sales of $549 million in the second-quarter of 2017, a 45% drop compared to the same period a year ago. 

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