Jan 28 Merck & Co's experimental drug
Ragwitek, a treatment for ragweed allergies, appears safe and
effective for use in patients between the ages of 18 and 65, a
panel of advisors to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
concluded on Tuesday.
The panel voted 6 to 2, with one abstention, that data
supported the drug's efficacy. It voted 8 to 0, with one
abstention, that the data supported the drug's safety.
About 30 million people in the United States suffer
allergies to ragweed pollen, according to the FDA.
Analysts see eventual Ragwitek sales of about $300 million.
However, Morningstar analyst Damien Conover believes sales could
reach as much as $1 billion if enough allergy sufferers prefer
Ragwitek, a pill, to injections.
The pill, which is comprised of extracts from short ragweed
pollen, would be taken daily beginning 12 weeks prior to the
start of the ragweed pollen season and throughout the season.
Merck filed its application seeking U.S. approval of
Ragwitek last March. The drug, and another pill for grass pollen
allergies called Grastek, are being developed along with Danish
Drugmaker ALK Abello.
In December, an FDA advisory committee unanimously
recommended approval of Grastek.