Merck & Co, the multinational pharmaceuticals major, will soon launch its cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil in India.
Merck, which kick-started its expansion plans in India in 2005, is consolidating its presence across major Indian cities and could hire up to 200 people in marketing and research across the country. It is also setting up a new subsidiary.
Over five lakh new cases of cervical cancer are detected worldwide every year, out of which a third are in India, according to industry estimates. Cervical and breast cancer are the two most common forms of cancer in India, according to a study done by the American Cancer Society in India.
''Our targets are broad therapeutic areas in cardiology, oncology and vaccines, and we are looking at India with a long-term perspective,'' said Murli Parthasarathy, director, MSD India, Merck's fully-owned subsidiary in India.
Gardasil, which was recently launched in the US, is claimed by Merck to be the world's only vaccine for cervical cancer and cancer of female lower reproductive system. Merck has entered into an agreement with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), and is undertaking studies on the Indian population.
The introduction of Gardasil marks Merck's renewed focus on India. Merck, which had sales of $22.6 billion (Rs 94,264 crore) in 2006, has a small presence outside the US. Only about a billion of those revenues came from Asia and other regions, according to Bloomberg data.
The company is already talking to doctors and institutes, including the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and ICMR to identify the possible areas of therapy where Merck would have a chance, said Parthasarathy.
''We are talking to doctors to identify areas where new therapies are needed before we launch more drugs,'' Parthasarathy added. Merck is yet to decide on the price of the vaccine in India.
Over the next five years, Merck intends to invest in India to capitalise the new subsidiary. Further investment in sales, marketing and research operations would be done in a phased manner, according to a release by the company.
Merck is also working on a new class of medicines in osteoporosis, a disabling bone disease in older patients, and diabetes, said Parthasarathy.