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Merck spent much of 2020 developing and testing two COVID-19 vaccine candidates but abandoned the projects in January. The company said in March that it would support the manufacturing and supply of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine instead. Merck’s worldwide sales increased 2% to $48 billion last year, led by a 30% increase in revenue ($14.4 billion) from its flagship cancer drug Keytruda. Despite the sales growth, Merck saw a 28% decrease in net income in 2020 compared with the prior year. And the numbers in 2021 aren’t exactly flashing green—at least so far: First-quarter sales were flat, and profit declined because of the continuing effects of the pandemic as well as increased competitive pressures for key Merck products. One more challenge for the venerable drugmaker: In June, longtime CEO Ken Frazier steps down after a stellar decade-long run leading the company. He will hand the reins to CFO Robert Davis.
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