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Pharmaceutical Giant Abandons Late-Stage Migraine Drug

The pharmaceutical company Merck recently announced it has dropped the program for its migraine drug telcagepant, which had been in the late stages of development.

The company did not cite reasons for this course of action, but its decision is widely believed to be a result of elevated liver enzymes in patients who participated in its Phase III clinical trials. This is the second time in two years the company has abandoned a migraine drug; the first was a similar drug called MK-3207, which also caused elevated liver enzymes.

Telcagepant is in a new class of migraine drugs called calcitonin gene-related peptide receptor blockers, which block pain receptors in the trigeminal and central nervous systems.

One of the benefits of this new class of drugs is that unlike triptans, they do not cause vasoconstriction. While telcagepant was being pursued, many hoped it would provide a good alternative for those who do not benefit from the older drugs or cannot use them, such as people with cardiovascular disease.

Merck also recently announced it would shrink its workforce and focus on key growth areas, such as emerging markets in countries other than the United States, where demand for medications has leveled off.

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