Merck & Co., Inc.

Stock Exchange: XNYS • Ticker: MRK • HQ: Kenilworth, NJ, US • Employees: 68,000

Ranking by technical area
Ranking by strategic pillar


Merck & Co., Inc. rises into the top 5. It has a strong approach to access management and is among the most transparent regarding marketing. It expands its engagement in licensing, including on access-oriented terms. In Capacity Building, its strengths are in supply chain management and in areas beyond the pharmaceutical value chain, with many activities targeting local needs. However, it drops in R&D, with a smaller relevant pipeline than the industry average, only a small proportion of which targets high-priority product gaps. Its equitable pricing strategies take limited account of socio-economic factors, and it performs relatively poorly in terms of its accountability for its sales agents’ pricing practices. Merck & Co., Inc. is in the top three in product donations, continuing its efforts to eliminate lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis.

Change since 2014

Has a leading strategy for stakeholder engagement, with defined processes for collecting views through local offices.

Has increased the transparency of its marketing activities.

Found twice since 2014 to have breached laws or codes relating to unethical behaviour.

Has signed the Declaration by the Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology and Diagnostics Industries on Combating Antimicrobial Resistance.

Has not expanded its use of equitable pricing strategies.

Still has relatively poor accountability for its sales agents’ pricing practices.

Has agreed licences for paediatric formulations of raltegravir (Isentress®), through the Medicines Patent Pool.

Continues to build local capacity in multiple ways, with a notable improvement in R&D.

Reaches a comparatively wide target population with its ivermectin (Mectizan®) donation programme.


Mitigate mark-ups in low- and middle-income countries. Merck & Co., Inc. can improve its accountability for its sales agents’ pricing practices.

Further expand approach to voluntary licensing. Merck & Co., Inc. can expand its use of voluntary licensing as a mechanism for boosting the affordability and supply of key medicines in countries in scope. This could include expanding licensing to adult formulations of raltegravir (Isentress®). It can also assess the need for elbasvir/grazoprevir (Zepatier®) in countries with high prevalence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotype 1 or 4, with a view towards licensing.

Expand strong approach to building R&D capacity. Merck & Co., Inc. can expand its relatively small-scale yet strong approach to addressing local R&D skills gaps through partnerships. It can undertake more partnerships in more locations where capacity building needs are identified.

Consider accessibility of products for non-communicable diseases during clinical stages of development. Merck & Co., Inc. can put plans in place (access provisions) to ensure new products for non-communicable diseases will be accessible. It can set these plans while the products are in late-stages of development. The company can consider such access provisions both for collaborative as well as in-house R&D projects.

Expand equitable pricing to more products. Merck & Co., Inc. can apply equitable pricing to more products in low- and middle-income countries, e.g., by implementing equitable pricing for the etonogestrel/ethinyl estradiol vaginal ring (NuvaRing®).

Sales and operations

Merck & Co., Inc. has three business segments: Pharmaceuticals, Vaccines and Animal Health. The company’s core areas of focus are endocrinology, oncology, infectious diseases and vaccines. In January 2015, the company acquired Cubist Pharmaceuticals, a company specialised in R&D for antibiotics for USD 9.5 bn. In October 2014, Merck & Co., Inc. sold its Consumer Care business to Bayer for USD 14.2 bn. It has increased its focus on emerging markets and has sales in 81 countries within the scope of the Index.

Sales in countries in scope
Sales by division
Sales by region

Portfolio and pipeline

Merck & Co., Inc. has a mid-sized portfolio of 50 products for diseases in scope, and a small pipeline of six R&D projects that address the needs of people in countries in scope. Its portfolio includes six preventive vaccines and two vector-control product. In non-communicable diseases, Merck & Co., Inc. focuses on diabetes and hypertensive and ischaemic heart disease. In communicable diseases, it has a strong focus on liver diseases, including HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis. It has gained marketing authorisation for several medicines since 2014, including a contraceptive ring, a paediatric hexavalent combination vaccine (Vaxelis), and a combination of elbasvir and grazoprevir (Zepatier®) for chronic hepatitis C.

Products per disease category

Merck & Co., Inc.’s portfolio targets all disease categories and includes six contraceptives.

Merck & Co., Inc. is developing medicines for diabetes, diarrhoeal diseases and HIV/AIDS, as well as a beta-lactamase inhibitor that combines relebactam with imipenem/cilastatin to treat complicated Gram-negative bacterial infections, and a next-generation vaginal contraceptive ring, MK-8342B. A small portion of its pipeline targets high-priority product gaps with low commercial incentive.

Pipeline projects

Merck & Co., Inc. is working with Samsung Bioepsis to develop insulin glargine (Lantus®) for diabetes. The agreement includes sufficient supply commitments.

First-line treatments and essential medicines

Half of its medicine and vaccine portfolio is listed on the WHO EML and/or are first-line treatments: e.g., peginterferon alfa-2b (PegIntron®), ribavirin (Rebetrol®), efavirenz (Stocrin®) and boceprevir (Victrelis®).

Pipeline by stage of development
– Innovative medicines and vaccines

There are several medicines in late-stage clinical development, including  bezlotoxumab for Clostridium difficile infection (currently under review by the FDA and EMA), and doravirine for the treatment of HIV-1 infections.

Pipeline by stage of development
– Adaptive medicines and vaccines

Merck & Co., Inc. has two combinations in development: its next-generation vaginal contraceptive ring and a beta-lactamase inhibitor combined with imipenem/cilastatin for bacterial infections.

Please refer to the pdf of the report card (that can be downloaded here) for information onMerck & Co., Inc.’s  performance per technical area.

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