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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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January 13, 2011

Merck's Thrombin Antagonist In Trouble

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Posted by Derek

Very bad news today for Merck (and the Schering-Plough people therein). Their thrombin receptor antagonist vorapaxar (formerly SCH 530348) has run into trouble.

A review board monitoring the compound's clinical trials has suddenly halted two of them. All we know at the moment is that the drug is "not appropriate for stroke patients", and it's also being pulled from a study in people who have had mild heart attacks. The best guess, as with any drug in the clotting field, is that it may be causing bleeding instead, but we'll have to see. Problem is, those are two of the more important patient populations that a company would be targeting, and if there's trouble in those groups, then it could be waiting to show up in others as well.

Vorapaxar has an unusual history at Schering-Plough (I wrote about it here, with some personal experiences from my own time at the company thrown in). I'm very sorry to see this news - sorry for the patients involved (and those who won't be helped later on), for the researchers involved (several of whom I've worked with in the past), and for Merck's investors, who are taking about a 6% trim today on the NYSE.

This compound wasn't the whole reason for Merck to buy Schering-Plough, but it wasn't a small part of the deal, either. That other stuff had better work out. . .

Comments (12) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business and Markets | Cardiovascular Disease | Clinical Trials | Drug Development


1. anon on January 13, 2011 1:22 PM writes...

Bring back Org-42675?
It seemed at the time like it was dropped due to Vorapaxar being slightly more advanced. Or did it have its own problems?

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2. Anonymous on January 13, 2011 1:22 PM writes...

Time for an update on your "Peter Kim So Far" column? Not to get personal, but he's a decade into the business as of December 15 (

This might make him the longest tenured R&D head in the business. How's the score card?

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3. Jerked on January 13, 2011 3:02 PM writes...

#2 Dr. Peter Kim is alive and kicking. So are other unashamed losers at other sites, who booted out their most productive chemists. Dr. Kim was recently in news putting up his best face at Merck's (sorry, Schering’s) Hepatitis C drug. They all have no shame.)

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4. Anonymous on January 13, 2011 3:24 PM writes...

It really isn't a thrombin inhibitor is it?

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5. In Vivo Veritas on January 13, 2011 4:43 PM writes...

#2 & #33 - Out with the old, in with the new - Peter Kim's time is short. When Luciano Rosetti takes his job it will change everything. He'll have the fresh outlook of a high-powered academic recently departed from a world class academic institution. See that's totally different from Kim. Oh wait. Well, he's Italian. THAT'S different.

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6. drug_hunter on January 13, 2011 8:23 PM writes...

This is a tragedy for the whole industry. I've heard two different SGP scientists talk about this work over the years. Fantastic story of what med chemists do best. Picked a good target, did clever and complex synthetic work, put up with a lot of setbacks, figured out and worked around their many problems and challenges one by one, and showed a lot of heart. Truly an inspiring piece of work -- and exactly the sort of behavior we need if the industry is to survive. I really hope the SGP team can recover from this.

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7. polyene on January 13, 2011 9:27 PM writes...

Worked on the TRA backup project last year. Indeed troubling news. Pretty hard chemistry too.

Hopefully something good will come out of the project.

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8. jerked on January 14, 2011 10:31 AM writes...

#5...."Out with the old, in with the new", you say. But, I say garbage in...Garbage out! I mean in my life time I have seen enough academics come to Merck with lot of pomp (including decade+ stay of Dr. Kim) and run away with tails between their legs. Academics are OK, but they have hard time adjusting to the various rigors and demands of drug discovery that is moving goal post. We shall see how long Dr. Luciano Rossetti will stick around. Being smart will not deliver Merck and it takes lot more at that level. Even before he arrived, Merck was abuzz with rumors that Dr. Peter Kim was smart...and know where Merck is today!

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9. ambidextrous on January 15, 2011 9:26 AM writes...

All this schadenfreude! It seems to me that in this case everything was done right. Someone had a good idea, stuck with it and got it into the clinic. IF (and let's remember that we are reading a lot into very little information) it doesn't work out, it's not because people were naive or stupid. Unfortunately a healthy dose of luck is required in this business.

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10. Former librarian on January 15, 2011 2:27 PM writes...

Kim never came to the Merck science libraries or requested articles during the start of his tenure as head of Merck Research Labs. That was in stark contrast to his predecessor Edward Skolnick who was a voracious reader. I wonder if this in part accounts for the current track record.

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11. anon on January 15, 2011 8:41 PM writes...


Library? Do you get this blog via telegram or tickertape?

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12. Anonymous on January 16, 2011 3:49 PM writes...

Peter Kim is useless! Rossetti is even worse. What has he accomplished with the diabetes and CV franchises?

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