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November 28, 2005
Everyone's been waiting for it, and today the ax finally dropped at Merck. It had to. The company still has over six thousand Vioxx lawsuits piled up, and one of their biggest moneymakers (Zocor, simvastatin) is going off patent (and that's not their only patent problem). Their advanced research pipeline has taken a terrible pounding the last couple of years, too, with the loss of a couple of Phase III compounds and the post-approval death of Pargluva.
It's not easy to tell from the press release, but it looks as if many of the 7,000 jobs that Merck is cutting will come from manufacturing. They're closing five production sites outright and trimming some others over the next two years. Discovery isn't being spared, though, since Merck's also closing a basic research site. (That's how you know things have gotten bad at a big pharma company). No details on which one yet, but I think we can assume that it's not going to be Rahway, and I don't see how it can possibly be West Point, PA either.
That would mean that the folks at Merck-Cambridge and
Merck-La Jolla (Update: whoops - that one's been closed since June) must be pretty jumpy, and I don't blame 'em. I listened to a fair amount of the company's conference call from this morning, and a spokesman said that the employees at each site designated for closure would be notified over the next two days. There won't be any public announcements until then.
As someone who's been through some rounds of closures and layoffs (a memorable one of which happened at almost this exact time of year, come to think of it), my sympathies go out to Merck's employees. I don't believe that their company has ever been through something like this before. I'm sorry to see y'all joining the club. And you people at Pfizer, I'm afraid that your membership will be up for renewal soon. . .
Update: here's a list of Merck's research sites. . .
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