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Merck sales soar but 3Q profit dips on higher spending

Big jumps in sales of Merck’s top two blockbuster drugs drove revenue up 15 percent, but higher spending across the board pushed profits down 3 percent in the third quarter. Merck still easily beat Wall Street forecasts and boosted its forecast for the year.

The quarter were dominated again by advanced cancer drug Keytruda, with sales soaring 62 percent to $3.07 billion, more than a quarter of Merck’s $11.1 billion in revenue from prescription medicines. Sales of its Gardasil vaccine, for preventing a sexually transmitted, cancer-causing virus, climbed 26 percent, to $1.32 billion.

The maker of Januvia Type 2 diabetes pills and vaccines reported revenue of $12.4 billion, including $1.12 billion in sales of veterinary medicines.

The Kenilworth, New Jersey, company posted net income of $1.9 billion, or 74 cents per share, up from $1.95 billion, or 73 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding non-recurring items and restructuring costs, earnings came to $3.87 billion, or $1.51 per share. That easily topped the per-share estimates of $1.25 from industry analysts, according to a poll by Zacks Investment Research.

Merck narrowed and raised its per-share 2019 profit forecast to between $5.12 and $5.17, up from its July forecast of $3.78 to $3.88. It also narrowed and raised its full-year forecast for sales to a range of between $46.5 billion and $47 billion, up from between $45.2 billion and $46.2 billion.

“We achieved another quarter of strong revenue and earnings growth as we continue to realize the benefits of our sustained investment in research and development and our focus on commercial execution,” Chief Executive Kenneth Frazier said in a prepared statement.