The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights:Merck, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi and Bayer

The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights:Merck, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi and
                                    Bayer

PR Newswire

CHICAGO, Dec. 11, 2012

CHICAGO, Dec. 11, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --Zacks.com announces the list of stocks
featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts
discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets.
Stocks recently featured in the blog include Merck (NYSE:MRK), Pfizer
(NYSE:PFE), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), Sanofi (NYSE:SNY) and Bayer
(OTC:BAYRY).

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20101027/ZIRLOGO)

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Here are highlights from Monday's Analyst Blog:

Merck's Alzheimer's Drug Progresses

Merck (NYSE:MRK) recently moved its Alzheimer's disease candidate, MK-8931,
into a phase II/III study (EPOCH). The study will evaluate the safety and
efficacy of MK-8931, an oral β-amyloid precursor protein site-cleaving enzyme
(BACE) inhibitor, in mild-to-moderate Alzheimer's disease patients.

Three oral doses of MK-8931 will be compared to placebo in the 78-week,
randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group, double-blind study. The safety
profile of the candidate will be evaluated in 200 patients before phase III
studies are initiated.

We view MK-8931 as a high risk-high return candidate for Merck. The successful
development of therapies for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease is
challenging and we note that several companies have failed in developing
treatments for the same.

Companies likePfizer (NYSE:PFE) and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) have all
faced setbacks in their efforts to develop a treatment for Alzheimer's
disease.

The Alzheimer's disease market, however, represents huge commercial potential
and therefore attracts a lot of interest. A successfully developed product
could generate billions of dollars in sales once launched. As per data
provided by the Alzheimer's Association, approximately 5.4 million people have
Alzheimer's disease in the US alone.

Neutral on Merck

We currently have a Neutral recommendation on Merck, which carries a Zacks #3
Rank (Hold). While headwinds remain in the form of the Singulair
genericization, EU pricing pressure, unfavorable currency movement, US health
care reform, the Remicade/Simponi transition and pipeline setbacks, some of
the company's recent launches should start contributing significantly to the
top line in the forthcoming quarters.

Large-cap pharma stocks currently holding a Zacks #2 Rank (Buy) include
companies like Sanofi (NYSE:SNY) and Bayer (OTC:BAYRY).

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