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Merck’s MK-0616 holds potential to become first oral PCSK9 inhibitor in dyslipidemia market, says GlobalData

Merck’s MK-0616 holds potential to become first oral PCSK9 inhibitor in dyslipidemia market, says GlobalData

Merck recently unveiled the Phase II clinical data for MK-0616, an investigational oral cholesterol-lowering drug, revealing that it significantly reduced low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in adults by 41.2% at the lowest dose of 6mg and 60.9% at the highest dose of 30mg at week 8 in patients with hypercholesterolemia and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD), with no reports of serious adverse events. The drug is expected to be launched in 2026 and reach $70 million in sales by 2028, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Dr Shireen Mohammad, Cardiovascular & Metabolic disorders Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “MK-0616 could potentially be the first oral proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) inhibitor to effectively lower LDL cholesterol. Merck has designed a powerful pill that could become a major player and even beat competitors in the dyslipidemia space, as all other PCSK9 inhibitors on the market are injectable.”

MK-0616 is a macrocyclic peptide designed to inhibit PCSK9, resulting in the removal of LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream by inhibiting the interaction of PCSK9 with LDL receptors. This is the same biological mechanism of action as currently approved injectables targeting PCSK9 for the treatment of hypercholesterolemia, but Merck has developed an oral daily pill. MK-0616 reduces the levels of LDL cholesterol with a similar efficacy to injectables: Amgen’s Repatha (evolocumab), Sanofi/Regeneron’s Praluent (alirocumab), and Novartis’ Leqvio (inclisiran).

Dr Mohammad adds: “Injectables inhibiting PCSK9 have been around for a long time but have failed to take off as expected in the dyslipidemia market. This is due to their route of administration and high cost. Merck hopes to do better with an oral alternative at an affordable price.”

As the global population continues to age and the rate of obesity is increasing, the prevalence of hypercholesterolemia is expected to rise, which could increase the demand for effective cholesterol-lowering medications. High LDL left untreated can increase the risk of ASCVD events, such as heart attacks and strokes. Statins are widely used and are first-line therapy to help patients lower their cholesterol levels. However, many patients with hypercholesterolemia are unable to tolerate or do not respond to stains, and therefore MK-0616 offers an effective option to help lower LDL cholesterol levels, hence lowering the risk of ASCVD. Merck plans to start a Phase III pivotal study for MK-0616 in the second half of 2023.

Dr Mohammad concludes: “The main advantage of MK-0616 is its oral form, which provides convenience for patients compared to other PCSK9-targeted drugs: Repatha, Praluent, and Leqvio that are administered by subcutaneous injection. The results are promising for MK-0616 for the treatment of hypercholesterolemia and if successful in Phase III clinical trials, MK-0616 could become the first oral PCSK9 inhibitor and a major player in the dyslipidemia space.” 

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Last Updated: 09-Mar-2023