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NEW ORLEANS — A new medicine represents a dramatic advance for patients with a rare condition called pulmonary arterial hypertension — and a return to heart disease for Merck, which long had a legendary presence in cardiology.

The medicine, sotatercept, substantially increased the distance that patients could walk over the course of six minutes and reduced the risk that their condition would worsen, that they would die, and that they would need new treatments, according to data presented here at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology.

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