Merck sees 5% profit increase, despite drop in Zetia, Vytorin sales

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Merck has reported that its second quarter profit rose 5 percent as cost-cutting efforts offset a drop in sales of its cholesterol drugs Zetia and Vytorin.

Worldwide sales were $6.1 billion for the quarter, a decrease of 1 percent from the second quarter of 2007, which the Whitehouse, Station, N.J.-based company attributed to the foreign exchange that favorably affected global sales performance by 5 percent.

The company said its materials and production costs were $1.4 billion for the quarter, a decrease of 10 percent from the second quarter of 2007. The second quarter of 2008 and second quarter of 2007 costs include $16 million and $119 million, respectively, for costs associated with the global restructuring program.

Marketing and administrative expenses were $1.9 billion for the second quarter of 2008, a decrease of 7 percent from the second quarter of 2007, Merck reported. The company said the marketing and administrative expenses in the second quarter of 2007 included a $210 million reserve solely for future legal defense costs for VIOXX litigation.

Also, the pharma giant reported that research and development expenses were $1.2 billion for the quarter, an increase of 13 percent from the second quarter of 2007.

Merck said that the combined worldwide sales of Zetia (ezetimibe) and Vytorin (ezetimibe/simvastatin), as reported by the Merck/Schering-Plough joint venture, were $1.2 billion for the second quarter of 2008, representing a 9 percent decrease compared with the second quarter of 2007. Worldwide sales of Zetia, marketed as Ezetrol outside the U.S., were $560 million in the second quarter of 2008, a decrease of 3 percent compared with the previous year's second quarter, the company said. Second-quarter 2008 worldwide sales of Vytorin, marketed outside the U.S. as Inegy, were $592 million, a decrease of 14 percent compared with the second quarter of 2007.

“Although some results didn't meet our expectations, we are taking action to address our challenges, and remain committed to regaining leadership in the pharmaceutical industry,” aid Richard T. Clark, Merck’s chairman, president and CEO.