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Merck (MRK - Free Report) recently presented encouraging phase IIb data on its type II diabetes candidate, MK-3102, at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD). Results from the 12-week multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled dose-ranging study showed that MK-3102 led to a significant reduction in blood sugar compared to placebo. Moreover, MK-3102 was found to be well tolerated with a safety profile similar to placebo.

Merck said that the occurrence of symptomatic hypoglycemia was similar for MK-3102 and placebo. Five doses (0.25, 1, 3, 10 and 25 mg) of MK-3102 were evaluated in the study that was conducted in type II diabetes patients whose glycemic control was not sufficient on diet and exercise.

Merck intends to move MK-3102 into phase III studies. The successful development of MK-3102 would provide type II diabetes patients with a convenient once-weekly treatment option. Merck has a strong presence in the diabetes market in the form of drugs like Januvia, Janumet and Juvisync. The launch of a once-weekly treatment would be a strong addition to the company’s diabetes product portfolio.

The diabetes market, while crowded, represents significant commercial potential. Key players in the diabetes market include Eli Lilly (LLY - Free Report) and Novo Nordisk (NVO - Free Report) among others.

We note that Johnson & Johnson (JNJ - Free Report) also presented data on its type II diabetes candidate, canagliflozin at the annual meeting of the EASD. Johnson & Johnson’s canagliflozin led to a significant decline in blood glucose levels when used in addition to insulin therapy compared to placebo. Moreover, patients in the canagliflozin arms experienced a reduction in body weight compared to placebo.

The phase III data was presented from an 18-week sub-study involving 1,718 patients who had been under insulin therapy for an average of 7.1 years. Johnson & Johnson said that two doses of canagliflozin were evaluated in the study – 100 mg and 300 mg. Patients were randomized to receive either canagliflozin dosage or placebo.

Johnson & Johnson has submitted marketing applications in the US and the EU for canagliflozin.

We currently have a Neutral recommendation on both Merck and Johnson & Johnson. While Johnson & Johnson carries a Zacks #2 Rank (short-term ‘Buy’ rating), Merck carries a Zacks #3 Rank (short-term ‘Hold’ rating).


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