Merck announces agreement to distribute diphtheria and tetanus vaccine

Merck & Co., Inc. announced in April that it has entered into an agreement that provides the healthcare leader with exclusive rights to market and distribute a tetanus and diphtheria toxoids adsorbed vaccine produced by vaccine maker MassBiologics in 49 states. MassBiologics will continue to distribute vaccines in Massachusetts, according to a news release from Merck & Co.

The world's second-biggest drug producer in terms of sales and market leader in terms of revenue plans to begin distributing the vaccine in June 2010, according to The Associated Press. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"Adult vaccination is an important element in Merck's commitment to help people be well, and we are delighted to partner with MassBiologics to add tetanus-diphtheria vaccine to our broad U.S. portfolio of adult vaccines," Soren Bo Christiansen, M.D., senior vice president and general manager for Adolescent & Adult Vaccines, said in a news release. "This agreement is another example of how Merck engages in partnerships that will enable us to bring the most robust portfolio of products to our customers."

MassBiologics is a nonprofit vaccine developer run by the University of Massachusettes Medical School.

The Associated Press states that New Jersey-based Merck is in an even race with British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline PLC to corner the vaccine market. 

Tetanus is found in soil and can enter the body through a cut or wound, Merck states in the release. Tetanus kills about one in five infected patients. Diphtheria is rare disease in the United States, but is spread by coughing and sneezing and causes a thick coating at the back of the throat that can lead to serious breathing problems.