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Merck’s Januvia and Janumet: An Investor’s Perspective

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Januvia and Janumet  

Januvia and Janumet are two blockbuster drugs in Merck’s (MRK) diabetes franchise. These drugs are used to lower blood sugar level in patients with type-II diabetes. The combined sales for these drugs was ~$1.6 billion for 3Q16, a 2% fall at constant exchange rates, offset by 1% positive impact of foreign exchange. This results in a 1% fall in the total sales of these drugs in 3Q16, as compared to 3Q15.

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Importance of Januvia and Janumet   

Januvia and its combination version, Janumet, are drugs classified as DPP-4 inhibitors. DPP-4 is an enzyme Dipeptidyl Peptidase-4, which removes incretin from the human body in normal cases for people without type-2 diabetes. However, people with type-2 diabetes require these DPP-4 inhibitors in order to prevent low blood sugar and weight gain.

Januvia has a very high share in Japan, as DPP-4 inhibitors have more patient days of therapy than other treatments. Notably, Japan has been a very fast uptake market for DPP-4 usage.

Januvia competitors include Onglyza, which is jointly made by Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) and AstraZeneca (AZN), and Galvus, which is offered by Novartis (NVS).

Contributions of Januvia and Janumet  

Januvia and Janumet together contributed about 14.7% of Merck’s total revenues in 3Q16, a ~0.9% fall as compared to 3Q15. These drugs are estimated to contribute over 15% in 4Q16.

To divest risk, investors can consider ETFs like the Fidelity MSCI Healthcare ETF (FHLC), which has ~5.3% of its total assets in Merck, 3.1% in Bristol-Myers Squibb, and 6.7% in Pfizer (PFE).

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