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What's Up With Merck Stock (MRK)?

About 18.35 million shares of Merck & Co., Inc. (MRK) changed hands on Tuesday, more than twice its average trading volume of 8.35 million, after the company announced that its blockbuster cancer treatment KEYTRUDA received another approval in China.

KEYTRUDA received approval in china for the first-line treatment of patients with metastatic squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in combination with chemotherapy. The treatment works by increasing the ability of the body's immune system to help detect and fight tumor cells.

This is the third first-line approval in NSCLC for KEYTRUDA in less than one year, stated Merck, which is known as MSD outside the US and Canada. KEYTRUDA, which also has the approval to treat other types of cancers, generated sales of $3.1 billion for the company in the recent third quarter, up 62% from the previous year.

Among other popular drugs, Merck also sells Gardasil, a vaccine targeting the human papillomavirus or HPV - that can cause cancer. Merck sold $1.3 billion worth of Gardasil in the recent third quarter, 26% higher than year-ago numbers.

Late October, Merck bumped up its FY19 forecast for non-GAAP earnings per share and revenue. The company now expects to earn between $5.12 and $5.17 a share, on revenues of $46.5 billion to $47 billion for fiscal 2019, a double-digit increase from last year.

Merck did say it sees "increased pricing pressure" in 2020, as US politicians have been criticizing drug-makers for high prices.

Tuesday, MRK closed at $87.34, after setting a new 52-week high of $87.44.

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