Merck's (NYSE:MRK) drug wasn't going to make the company a 10-bagger from here. Instead, it was supposed to help prevent heart failure. But now?

The company said today that rolofylline failed to show an effect in its phase 3 clinical trial in heart failure patients. Companies often try to sugar-coat pipeline failures, but there was apparently nothing good to say about this one. It failed its primary and secondary endpoints: no improved symptoms, no reduction in the risk of death or re-hospitalization after treatment, and no reduction in occurrence of kidney impairment. Nothing!

Merck acquired the drug though its 2007 purchase of NovaCardia for $366 million. Not a bad price for a phase 3 drug, but it's wasted nonetheless. Fortunately the company used stock to pay for the acquisition, which was about double the current price back then.

As a result of the news, Biogen Idec (NASDAQ:BIIB) must be a bit more worried today. It has a drug, Adentri, targeting the same molecule -- adenosine A1 receptor -- in phase 3 trials. Biogen licensed the drug from CV Therapeutics, now part of Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD). Sometimes drugs fail because the target is bad, and sometimes they're just not strong enough. And, of course, sometimes they work. Only time will tell which path Adentri is on.

Rolofylline's failure highlights the reason Merck needs to acquire Schering-Plough (NYSE:SGP). Schering-Plough has a well-stocked pipeline of drugs, which is the main reason I liked the acquisition better than Pfizer's (NYSE:PFE) purchase of Wyeth (NYSE:WYE). Not all drugs in the pipeline will succeed, but the more shots on goal a company has, the greater the chance of getting a drug that doesn't fail.

Investment failure is not an option:

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Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. The Fool has a disclosure policy.