But the situation Perlmutter faced was sobering. Merck had introduced no important innovative medicines since 2006, when it won approvals for Gardasil, the first vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, and a new type of diabetes drug called Januvia.
A trail of disappointments had ensued, including failed studies of cholesterol treatment Tredaptive and migraine drug telcagepant and ongoing regulatory delays for osteoporosis medicine odanacatib.
"I had one of our very senior chemists express to me her concern that maybe she just isn't any good at this," Perlmutter said. "She got to the point where she really doubted her own ability. And that level of self-doubt has an effect on people's performance."
Perlmutter said some promising developments with new drugs were beginning to lift morale, including a closely watched cancer treatment called MK-3475 that works by harnessing the immune system, highly potent new oral therapies for hepatitis C and an improved version of Gardasil.Something tells me that this sort of comment is made to one's management in some level of confidence and the chemist in question wasn't expecting her quote to go out on the wire services in service of Dr. Perlmutter's rescuing-Merck's-confidence narrative.