Merck KGaA looks to Erbitux, Gonal-f to drive expansion in emerging markets: report

Belen Garijo, CEO of Merck KGaA's Serono unit, said the company is looking to expand in emerging markets by boosting investment in its existing medicines for cancer and fertility, Bloomberg reported Friday. "Our aspiration is to become a significant player in highly-specialised diseases and a leading player in emerging markets," Garijo remarked.

Garijo said that Merck aims to "fully exploit" Erbitux (cetuximab) in Asia, particularly for head and neck cancer in Japan and China. The drug has been approved in Japan for patients with head and neck cancer, while a filing in this indication in China is still under review. The chief executive also highlighted the development of "super Erbitux," called Sym004, which the company licensed from Symphogen in 2012.

Garijo added that there is also "significant growth potential" for fertility products such as Gonal-f (follitropin alfa) in China, Turkey and Russia. "We’re rightly prioritising our focus on medications with the best benefit to patients," she commented.

The executive noted that Merck will continue to cut development programmes if necessary, while the company will announce alongside its financial results on March 6 whether it plans to move the experimental multiple sclerosis drug ONO-4641 into late-stage trials. Garijo indicated that the drugmaker is also looking for acquisitions in the US, with a focus on boosting its oncology pipeline.

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