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Merck to Present New Data for Sotatercept and MK-0616 at ACC.23/WCC, Demonstrating Significant Progress in Advancing Its Innovative Cardiovascular Pipeline

Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, today announced the presentation of clinical data from its broad and advancing cardiovascular pipeline and portfolio at the upcoming American College of Cardiology’s 72nd Annual Scientific Session together with World Heart Federation’s World Congress of Cardiology (ACC.23/WCC) in New Orleans, LA from March 4-6, 2023.

Two Merck studies will be featured in a late-breaking clinical trial session: the first presentation of detailed findings from the pivotal Phase 3 STELLAR trial evaluating sotatercept, an investigational activin signaling inhibitor therapy, as an add-on to stable background therapy for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), and results from a Phase 2b trial evaluating MK-0616, an investigational oral proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) inhibitor, for the treatment of hypercholesterolemia.

“At this year’s ACC and WCC meeting, we’re thrilled to share major updates for two promising investigational medicines from our robust cardiovascular pipeline,” said Dr. Eliav Barr, senior vice president and head of global clinical development, chief medical officer, Merck Research Laboratories. “We look forward to sharing the Phase 3 data for sotatercept, a novel therapeutic approach that we believe has the potential to transform the treatment of patients with PAH. We’re also proud to continue to build on our company’s unique heritage in treatments for cardiovascular diseases by sharing clinical data from our oral PCSK9 inhibitor program. These exciting data, together with new data for our approved medicines, reflect the strength of our innovative cardiovascular pipeline and our commitment to help improve outcomes for people with cardiovascular disease.”

Details on selected studies by Merck

  • The STELLAR Phase III trial: a study of sotatercept in combination with background therapy for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension

Author: Hoeper

Late-Breaking Clinical Trials V

  • Abstract: #LBA 410-14
  • Session time: Monday, March 6, 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. CST (Great Hall)
  • Presentation time: 11:45-11:55 a.m. CST

Late-Breaking Clinical Trials Deep Dive II

  • Abstract: #LBA 413-15
  • Session time: Monday, March 6, 2:30-3:45 p.m. CST (La Nouvelle B)
  • Presentation time: 3:30-3:35 p.m. CST
  • In October 2022, Merck announced that STELLAR met its primary efficacy outcome measure, demonstrating a statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvement in six-minute walking distance from baseline at 24 weeks as an add-on to stable background therapy.


  • Efficacy and safety of the oral PCSK9 inhibitor, MK-0616, a macrocyclic peptide, in the treatment of hypercholesterolemia: a Phase 2b randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial

Author: Ballantyne

Abstract: #LBA 410-16

Session time: Monday, March 6, 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. CST (Great Hall)

Presentation time: 12-12:10 p.m. CST


  • Contemporary therapy of pulmonary arterial hypertension across the globe

Author: White

Abstract: #1535-031

Session time: Sunday, March 5, 11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m. CST (Hall F)


  • Who? Characterizing vericiguat use in a real-world HFREF patient population

Author: Victores

Abstract: #1006-13

Session time: Saturday, March 4, 11-11:10 a.m. CST (Hall F)


  • NT-ProBNP during screening in the study of vericiguat in participants with heart failure with reduced ejection fraction (VICTORIA) trial: insights into outcomes and vericiguat

Author: Westerhout

Abstract: #1768-154

Session time: Monday, March 6, 11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m. CST (Hall F)

Merck Investor Event

Merck will host an investor event on Monday, March 6 at 6 p.m. CST (7 p.m. EST) to discuss data presented at ACC.23/WCC and provide an update on the progress of the company’s cardiovascular pipeline, followed by a question-and-answer session. Investors, analysts, members of the media and the general public are invited to listen to a live webcast of the presentation at

About sotatercept

Sotatercept is an investigational, potential first-in-class activin signaling inhibitor biologic being studied for the treatment of PAH (WHO Group 1). PAH is a rare disease caused by hyperproliferation of cells in the arterial walls in the lung, leading to narrowing and abnormal constriction. In pre-clinical models, sotatercept has been shown to modulate vascular cell proliferation, reversing vascular and right ventricle remodeling.

Sotatercept has been granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as Priority Medicines designation by the European Medicines Agency for the treatment of PAH. Merck acquired exclusive rights to sotatercept in the pulmonary hypertension field through the acquisition of Acceleron Pharma Inc. Sotatercept is the subject of a licensing agreement with Bristol Myers Squibb.

About MK-0616

MK-0616 is an investigational, potentially first oral PCSK9 inhibitor designed to lower low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. MK-0616 is a macrocyclic peptide that binds to PCSK9 and inhibits the interaction of PCSK9 with LDL receptors. This results in greater numbers of LDL receptors available on the cell surface to remove LDL cholesterol from the blood.

About VERQUVO® (vericiguat) tablets for once daily oral use (2.5 mg, 5 mg, and 10 mg)

VERQUVO is a stimulator of soluble guanylate cyclase (sGC), an important enzyme in the nitric oxide (NO) signaling pathway. When NO binds to sGC, the enzyme catalyzes the synthesis of intracellular cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP), a second messenger that plays a role in the regulation of vascular tone, cardiac contractility, and cardiac remodeling. Heart failure is associated with impaired synthesis of NO and decreased activity of sGC, which may contribute to myocardial and vascular dysfunction. By directly stimulating sGC, independently of and synergistically with NO, vericiguat augments levels of intracellular cGMP, leading to smooth muscle relaxation and vasodilation.

Selected Safety Information for VERQUVO


Females of reproductive potential: Exclude pregnancy before the start of treatment. To prevent pregnancy, females of reproductive potential must use effective forms of contraception during treatment and for one month after stopping treatment. Do not administer VERQUVO to a pregnant female because it may cause fetal harm.

VERQUVO is contraindicated in patients with concomitant use of other soluble guanylate cyclase (sGC) stimulators. VERQUVO is contraindicated in pregnancy. Based on data from animal reproduction studies, VERQUVO may cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman. Advise females of reproductive potential of the potential risk to a fetus. Obtain a pregnancy test before the start of treatment. Advise females of reproductive potential to use effective contraception during treatment with VERQUVO and for at least one month after the final dose.

In a clinical trial, the most commonly observed adverse events with VERQUVO vs placebo, occurring at a frequency greater than or equal to 5%, were hypotension (16% vs 15%) and anemia (10% vs 7%).

There are no data on the presence of VERQUVO in human milk, the effects on the breastfed infant, or effects on milk production. Because of the potential for serious adverse reactions in breastfed infants from VERQUVO, advise women not to breastfeed during treatment with VERQUVO.

Concomitant use of VERQUVO with PDE-5 inhibitors is not recommended because of the potential for hypotension.

The vericiguat program is co-developed by Bayer and Merck. Merck has the commercial rights to vericiguat in the U.S. and Bayer has the exclusive commercial rights in the rest of world. The companies share equally the costs of the development of vericiguat.

Merck’s focus on cardiovascular disease

Merck has a long history of making an impact in cardiovascular disease. More than 60 years ago, we introduced our first cardiovascular therapy – and our scientific efforts to understand cardiovascular-related disorders have continued. Cardiovascular disease continues to be one of the most serious health challenges of the 21st century. Approximately 18 million people across the globe die every year, and in the United States one person dies every 36 seconds from cardiovascular disease.

Advancements in the treatment of cardiovascular disease can make a critical difference for patients around the world. At Merck, we strive for scientific excellence and innovation in all stages of research, from discovery through approval and life cycle management. We work with experts throughout the cardiovascular and pulmonary community to advance research that can help improve the lives of patients globally.

About Merck

At Merck, known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, we are unified around our purpose: We use the power of leading-edge science to save and improve lives around the world. For more than 130 years, we have brought hope to humanity through the development of important medicines and vaccines. We aspire to be the premier research-intensive biopharmaceutical company in the world – and today, we are at the forefront of research to deliver innovative health solutions that advance the prevention and treatment of diseases in people and animals. We foster a diverse and inclusive global workforce and operate responsibly every day to enable a safe, sustainable and healthy future for all people and communities. For more information, visit and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.

Forward-Looking Statement of Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, N.J., USA

This news release of Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, N.J., USA (the “company”) includes “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the safe harbor provisions of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements are based upon the current beliefs and expectations of the company’s management and are subject to significant risks and uncertainties. There can be no guarantees with respect to pipeline candidates that the candidates will receive the necessary regulatory approvals or that they will prove to be commercially successful. If underlying assumptions prove inaccurate or risks or uncertainties materialize, actual results may differ materially from those set forth in the forward-looking statements.

Risks and uncertainties include but are not limited to, general industry conditions and competition; general economic factors, including interest rate and currency exchange rate fluctuations; the impact of the global outbreak of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19); the impact of pharmaceutical industry regulation and health care legislation in the United States and internationally; global trends toward health care cost containment; technological advances, new products and patents attained by competitors; challenges inherent in new product development, including obtaining regulatory approval; the company’s ability to accurately predict future market conditions; manufacturing difficulties or delays; financial instability of international economies and sovereign risk; dependence on the effectiveness of the company’s patents and other protections for innovative products; and the exposure to litigation, including patent litigation, and/or regulatory actions.

The company undertakes no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. Additional factors that could cause results to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements can be found in the company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2021 and the company’s other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) available at the SEC’s Internet site (

Please see Prescribing Information, including Boxed Warning, for VERQUVO (vericiguat) at and Medication Guide at


Media Contacts:

Julie Cunningham

(617) 519-6264

Ayn Wisler

(917) 691-6218

Investor Contacts:

Peter Dannenbaum

(908) 740-1037

Damini Chokshi

(908) 740-1807

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