Merck & Co. reports gain for 4Q


WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. Merck & Co. said Tuesday announced it had a successful fourth-quarter profit, despite several setbacks over the past year.

The maker of vaccines, cholesterol drugs and asthma treatment Singulair reported a profit of $1.64 billion, or 78 cents per share. A year ago, Merck posted a loss of $1.63 billion, or 75 cents per share, after the company faced approximately 50,000 mainly product liability suits involving its withdrawn painkiller Vioxx.

Lower fourth-quarter costs for materials and production, and for restructuring, down to $103.1 million from $156.2 million in 2007, helped boost the bottom line.

Additional restructuring is anticipated for this year, as the pharmaceutical giant is expected to lay off about 5,300 more workers. Since December 2005, Merck has slimmed down by 10 percent, from 61,500 employees then to 55,200 at the end of 2008.

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