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Merck said yesterday it would discontinue developing an experimental drug combination for chronic hepatitis C. — AFP picMerck said yesterday it would discontinue developing an experimental drug combination for chronic hepatitis C. — AFP picNEW YORK, Sept 30 — US drugmaker Merck & Co said yesterday it would discontinue developing an experimental drug combination for chronic hepatitis C, as competition rises and patient population shrinks.

The decision was made after reviewing mid-stage trial data of the treatments, said the company, which currently sells hepatitis C drug Zepatier.

Merck is the latest drugmaker to move away from the hepatitis C market.

Earlier this month, Janssen Sciences Ireland UC, a unit of Johnson & Johnson, said it would discontinue further development of its hepatitis C research.

Hepatitis C drugmakers have been struggling with slowing sales growth.

Market leader Gilead Sciences has seen total sales of its hepatitis C drugs — Sovaldi, Harvoni and Epclusa — sharply drop to US$2.9 billion (RM12.2 billion) in the second quarter ended June 30 from US$4 billion a year earlier.

Hepatitis C causes inflammation of the liver that can lead to diminished organ function or its failure.

An estimated 2.7 million to 3.9 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis C infection, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. — Reuters

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