Merck Serono announced a collaboration for promotion of the type 2 diabetes drug Glucophage (metformin hydrochloride) under different formulations in China. Under terms of the agreement, Merck Serono and Bristol-Myers Squibb will co-promote Glucophage in China through a profit-sharing arrangement. Glucophage has been marketed by Bristol- Myers Squibb-SASS in China since 1999. The two companies will utilize their existing resources and complementary strengths, with Bristol-Myers Squibb-SASS continuing to manufacture Glucophage’s IR (immediate release) formulation. The collaboration will seek to expand the geographic distribution of Glucophage as well as provide diabetes-related health and medical information including education for health professionals. In addition, the co-promotion will significantly increase outreach to hospitals. Other terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

“The incidence of type 2 diabetes in China is growing at a tremendous rate. This new collaboration will help ensure that we continue to be a leading solution provider for these patients. Both BMS and Merck Serono have long experience in the field of diabetes and this makes for a powerful partnership as we aim to improve the lives of patients in China,” said Belen Garijo, Merck Serono’s Chief Operating Officer. “Merck Serono's solid position in Emerging Markets will be further strengthened by the diabetes partnership in China.” “We believe the collaboration between Bristol-Myers Squibb and Merck Serono will expand access for Chinese patients to Glucophage,” said Jean-Christophe Pointeau, President, Bristol-Myers Squibb China: “The combined promotion efforts of the two companies will help reach more patients in urban and rural communities who have had less access to treatment and who can benefit from metformin, an established standard of care for treating type 2 diabetes.”

According to a recent estimate by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), China now has the most people with diabetes of any country in the world. It has become a major public health problem in China with more than 90 million people suffering from the disease. Current estimates are that more than 60% of patients with type 2 diabetes are undiagnosed, possibly due to a combination of poor public awareness and limited opportunities for diagnosis.

Merck Serono has a long history in the treatment of type 2 diabetes, which is the most common form of diabetes, accounting for at least 90% of all cases of diabetes. The company developed metformin in 1957 and started its first commercialization under the brand name Glucophage in France. Since 2005, the IDF has recommended metformin as the treatment of choice for first-line therapy in its first ever evidence-based global guidelines for the management of type 2 diabetes. To respond to patients’ individual needs, the company continued to develop new formulations and presentations of metformin including Glucophage, an extended-release formulation; Glucophage Powder formulation in sachets; and Glucovance (metformin and glibenclamide), a fixed-dose combination therapy. The availability, indications and prescribing information for these prescription-only medicines vary from country to country. BMS and Merck Serono intend to launch Glucophage XR in China in the near future.

This partnership is a significant milestone for Merck Serono and the Merck Group as they strengthen their commitment to China.

Date: March 19, 2013
Source: Merck Serono