Merck's fiance announced today that the Food and Drug Administration approved its schizophrenia and bipolar drug, Saphris. The drug has had a schizophrenic set of owners: Organon Biosciences owned the drug and partnered with Pfizer
Saphris enters a pretty crowded market for antipsychotics, including Bristol-Myers Squibb's
For now, though, Saphris isn't going to be a blockbuster. It's only approved to treat acute episodes and until Schering, or more likely Merck, gets it approved for long-term maintenance use, Saphris is likely to be a minor player.
There is long-term hope for Saphris, though. The drug appears to have milder side effects than current antipsychotics. For instance, 14.7% of patients who took Saphris for 52 weeks increased their body weight by 7% or more. By contrast, 18% of patients on Risperdal for just six to eight weeks experienced the same amount of weight gain.
In and of itself, Saphris' approval isn't going to make much of a difference in the value of Schering. But the approval does highlight the reason that Merck purchased Schering: its well-stocked pipeline. If Schering's pipeline continues to deliver, the acquisition should make investors less depressed and more prone to euphoria.
Unlike pharma drug approvals, when biotech companies get a drug approved, big things happen.
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