50 of 2021’s best-selling pharmaceuticals

Drug sales in 2021 hit record heights, with a handful of pharmaceutical companies handsomely rewarded for creating COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

Pfizer alone raked in $36.9 billion in sales from the Comirnaty vaccine it developed jointly with BioNTech. Demand for the COVID-19 vaccine helped catapult Pfizer to be 2021’s top pharmaceutical company. Continued demand for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is likely to keep Pfizer as the biggest pharma firm of 2022 as well. (Look out for more insights from our annual Pharma 50 report.) 

The second-best-selling drug of 2021 was AbbVie’s injectable biologic Humira, which generated $20.7 billion in sales. Next in line was Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, which drove $17.7 billion in revenue. Merck’s megablockbuster Keytruda rounded out the top four with $17.2 billion in revenue.

Novartis and Roche have struggled to commercialize COVID-19 therapies, although the latter has introduced a series of SARS-CoV-2 diagnostics. T…

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Merck and Vesselon preclinical study reports dramatic tumor pharmacokinetics findings

Merck & Co. (NSDQ:MRNA) scientists have explored fighting cancer by way of the STING (stimulator of interferon genes)-controlled innate immune pathway.

Now, the company has published research in Advanced Therapeutics detailing a preclinical study with its partner Vesselon Inc. that reported impressive pharmacokinetics results related to MSA-1, a STING agonist.

The researchers found that low intravenous doses of MSA-1 alone did not have anti-tumor properties. But pairing MSA-1 with Vesselon’s FDA-approved acoustically-active drug Imagent led to complete tumor regressions. Vesselon makes use of a phenomenon known as sonoporation, which involves a temporary opening of cell membranes as a result of ultrasound exposure.

Imagent is FDA approved as a contrast agent for diagnostic ultrasound.

Specifically, Merck scientists reported that sonoporation dramatically improved the pharmacokinetics of MSA-1, boosting tumor uptake 658% 15 minutes after …

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Hookipa Pharma announces oncology partnership with Merck

Immunotherapy-specialist Hookipa Pharma (NSDQ:HOOK) has announced a clinical collaboration and supply agreement with Merck (NYSE:MRK). Hookipa will test its immunotherapeutic HB-200 in conjunction with Merck’s blockbuster anti-PD-1 therapy, Keytruda (pembrolizumab), as first-line treatment for patients with advanced head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).

Last year, Merck raked in $14.5 billion in sales revenue from Keytruda.

“There remains considerable unmet treatment need for people with metastatic head and neck cancers, and we believe the combination of HB-200 and Keytruda may offer hope,” said Joern Aldag, Hookipa CEO, in a statement.

Hookipa reports that the company has seen early success with combining Keytruda and HB-200 in heavily pre-treated patients.

The company plans on launching a Phase 2 trialing the combination of HB-200 with Keytruda in 2022.

The company is developing a range of novel arenaviral immunotherapies for onc…

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Merck results miss in Q2

Merck (NYSE: MRK) posted second-quarter results today that missed the consensus forecast on Wall Street, though the company expects up to 14% sales growth this year.

The Kenilworth, N.J.–based pharmaceutical giant reported profits of $1.213 billion, or 48¢, off $11.402 billion in sales, nearly halving its bottom line while boosting sales 19% from Q2 2020. Merck adjusted earnings and revenue to take into account its June 2021 spinoff of Organon, which brought Merck a $9 billion windfall.

Adjusted to exclude one-time items, earnings per share were $1.31, 13¢ behind The Street, where analysts looked for EPS of $1.44 on sales of $11.54 billion.

Related: FDA approves Merck’s Keytruda to treat certain types of breast cancer

“We are encouraged by the strong momentum of our underlying business led by our key growth drivers as the impact of the pandemic on our performance lessens,” said Merck CEO Rob Davis said in a news release. “We are confident that we …

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