More reports on: Merck & Co
Merck antifungal drug faces key U.S. panel test news
Ananth Koovappady
16 February 2001

There may be relief on the way for doctors fighting hard to cure stubborn life-threatening fungal infections in transplant patients and those with weak immune systems.

Global pharma major, Merck and Company, has recently made a pitch to US regulators for approval of its anti-fungal drug, Cancidas, which has been tested to treat an infection called aspergillosis. Aspergillosis is caused by a fungus found in compost, dead leaves and dust. Infections usually start in the lungs but also can affect the heart, brain, kidneys and eyes.

The regulator, Foods and Drugs Administration, is considering safety and effectiveness data gathered during the experimental phase of the drug, which is an echinocandin known as a glucan synthesis inhibitor. According to a company press release, in a clinical trial covering 54 people with invasive aspergillosis, nearly 41 per cent of those treated with Cancidas showed marked improvements with infections clearing up.

New Jersery-based Merck, which has produced vaccines and medicines to treat cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and infectious diseases, arthritis, glaucoma, and symptomatic benign prostate enlargement, is estimating Cancidas to yield revenues worth $400-500 million by 2005. However, financial analysts are of the opinion that the figure may be much less, especially since Cancidas can be taken only intravenously and competition in the form of an oral drug from Pfizer, another pharmaceutical major, is soon in the offing.

Other recent breakthroughs from Merck are Crixivan - a potent drug for treating HIV infection, the principal causative agent of AIDS, Fosamax - to treat postmenopausal osteoporosis and the vaccines Varivax for protection against chickenpox and Vaqta for protection against hepatitis A.

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Merck antifungal drug faces key U.S. panel test