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Japan's Santen Pharmaceutical Licenses Glaucoma Drug to Merck & Co., Inc. (MRK) (JOBS)


4/15/2009 7:07:18 AM

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Merck & Co., Inc. and Santen Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. today announced a worldwide licensing agreement for tafluprost, a prostaglandin analogue under investigation in the U.S. Tafluprost, preserved and preservative-free formulations, has received marketing approval for the reduction of elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) in open-angle glaucoma and ocular hypertension in several European and Nordic countries as well as Japan and has been filed for approval in additional European and Asia Pacific markets.

Under the terms of the agreement, Merck will pay an undisclosed fee as well as milestones and royalty payments based on future sales of tafluprost (both preserved and preservative-free formulations) in exchange for exclusive commercial rights to tafluprost in Western Europe (excluding Germany), North America, South America and Africa. Santen will retain commercial rights to tafluprost in most countries in Eastern Europe, Northern Europe and Asia Pacific, including Japan. Merck will provide promotion support to Santen in Germany and Poland. If tafluprost is approved in the U.S., Santen has an option to co-promote it there.

"Today's announcement is an important milestone in the development and commercialization of tafluprost," said Akira Kurokawa, president and CEO of Santen Ltd. "Through this licensing agreement with Merck, we are well positioned to significantly expand our access to additional markets."

"The licensing of tafluprost from Santen, a company with extensive experience in ophthalmics, further expands Merck's strong portfolio of topical treatments in ophthalmology," said Vlad Hogenhuis, M.D., senior vice president and general manager, neuroscience and ophthalmology, Merck. "After 50 years, Merck remains committed to advancing ophthalmic research and expanding global outreach to improve therapeutic options for patients."

About tafluprost

Tafluprost, preserved and preservative-free formulations, belongs to the prostaglandin class for the reduction of elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) in open-angle glaucoma and ocular hypertension. Tafluprost has been approved in 11 countries, and it is marketed under the trademark of TAFLOTAN™ in Germany, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway. In Japan, it is marketed under the trademark of TAPROS™. The compound remains under investigation in the U.S.

About glaucoma

Glaucoma generally begins with a subtle loss of side vision (peripheral vision) and can progress to loss of central vision and blindness, as if you are looking through an increasingly narrow tube. It is a leading cause of preventable blindness and is often called “the sneak thief of sight” because it has no symptoms and causes no pain. As a result, as many as 50 percent of people may not know that they have the disease. Currently, more than 60 million people worldwide are affected by glaucoma.

About Merck

Merck & Co., Inc. is a global research-driven pharmaceutical company dedicated to putting patients first. Established in 1891, Merck currently discovers, develops, manufactures and markets vaccines and medicines to address unmet medical needs. The Company devotes extensive efforts to increase access to medicines through far-reaching programs that not only donate Merck medicines but help deliver them to the people who need them. Merck also publishes unbiased health information as a not-for-profit service. For more information, visit www.merck.com.

Forward looking statement

This press release contains "forward-looking statements" as that term is defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements are based on management's current expectations and involve risks and uncertainties, which may cause results to differ materially from those set forth in the statements. The forward-looking statements may include statements regarding product development, product potential or financial performance. No forward-looking statement can be guaranteed and actual results may differ materially from those projected. Merck undertakes no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise. Forward-looking statements in this press release should be evaluated together with the many uncertainties that affect Merck's business, particularly those mentioned in the risk factors and cautionary statements in Item 1A of Merck's Form 10-K for the year ended Dec. 31, 2008, and in any risk factors or cautionary statements contained in the Company's periodic reports on Form 10-Q or current reports on Form 8-K, which the Company incorporates by reference.

Contact:

Media: Ian McConnell, 908-423-3046 or Kim Hamilton, 908-423-6831 or Investor: Eva Boratto, 908-423-5185

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