In more news from the pharmaceutical sector, Merck announced early today that it has received accelerated FDA approval for its Isentress tablets. Isentress is a drug used to treat HIV-1 infection in patients who have failed to respond to other HIV treatments.

According to MRK, Isentress is the first medicine receiving approval from a new class of antiretroviral drugs called integrase inhibitors. These types of drugs work by inhibiting the encroachment of HIV DNA into human DNA, targeting the integrase enzyme one of 3 enzymes needed by HIV to reproduce.

A Merck spokesperson noted that a year of treatment with Isentress would cost about $9,850 per year and is meant to be used in a cocktail combination with other drugs. It was studied in combination with a variety of other treatments including Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ) Prezista and Roche Holding AG's Fuzeon.

In early market action, MRK shares have moved modestly higher, cruising above its 10-day and 20-day moving averages. The stock has been on the rise since mid-September and its upward momentum recently forced its 10-week and 20-week moving averages into a bullish crossover. The next technical challenge for the shares is the 55 level, which represented a multi-year high for the shares in late May. The 55 strike is also home to peak call open interest in the October and November series.