WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. (AP) — Merck & Co. said Wednesday that its experimental insomnia drug suvorexant helped patients fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer in two late-stage tests of the drug, seen as a potential blockbuster in a multibillion-dollar market.
Merck said the drug worked better than a placebo at measurements including total sleep time, time to falling asleep, and continuous sleep after one month and three months of treatment. The company said patients reported better results on suvorexant compared with placebo, and their sleeping habits also were measured electronically.
Suvorexant is a new type of insomnia drug designed to help patients sleep while minimizing morning grogginess. It is one of Merck's major drug candidates. The company plans to file for U.S. marketing approval this year, and it is one of six planned product filings for Merck in 2012 and 2013.
The two trials involved more than 2,000 patients who had insomnia that was not caused by another medical problem. The most common side effects of suvorexant were tiredness and headache.
Shares of Merck rose 17 cents to $38.60 in afternoon trading.
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