HEALTH

Merck, Schering-Plough agree to merge

BY Michael Johnsen

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. Merck and Schering-Plough Corporation Monday morning announced that their respective boards have unanimously approved a definitive merger agreement under which Merck and Schering-Plough will combine, under the name Merck, in a stock and cash transaction.

Under the terms of the agreement, Schering-Plough shareholders will receive 0.5767 shares and $10.50 in cash for each share of Schering-Plough. Each Merck share will automatically become a share of the combined company. Merck chairman, president and CEO Richard Clark will lead the combined company.

Based on the closing price of Merck stock on March 6, 2009, the consideration to be received by Schering-Plough shareholders is valued at $23.61 per share, or $41.1 billion in the aggregate. This price represents a premium to Schering-Plough shareholders of approximately 34 percent based on the closing price of Schering-Plough stock on March 6, 2009. The consideration also represents a premium of approximately 44 percent based on the average closing price of the two stocks over the last 30 trading days.

 “We are creating a strong, global healthcare leader built for sustainable growth and success,” Clark said. “The combined company will benefit from a formidable research and development pipeline, a significantly broader portfolio of medicines and an expanded presence in key international markets, particularly in high-growth emerging markets. The efficiencies we gain will allow us to invest in strategic opportunities, while creating meaningful value for shareholders.

“We look forward to joining forces with an outstanding partner we know well and that shares our commitment to patients, employees and the communities where we work and live. Through their talent and dedication, Schering-Plough employees have built an industry leading R&D engine and late-stage pipeline that is complementary to our own. We are confident that, together, Merck and Schering-Plough will make a meaningful difference in the future of global healthcare,” Clark added.

Fred Hassan, chairman and CEO of Schering-Plough, said, “Over the last six years, Schering-Plough colleagues have transformed our company into a strong competitor in the global pharmaceutical industry. We have built a strong, diverse business and a robust pipeline that offers hope to patients who are waiting for new medicines. I am proud of what we have accomplished. Our success is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our colleagues in every country. We are joining forces with Merck, our long-term partner in our cholesterol joint venture, to create a dynamic new leader in the pharmaceutical industry. By harnessing the strengths of both companies, the combined entity will be well-positioned to further deliver on our shared goal of discovering new therapies for patients to help them live healthier, happier lives.”

Peter Kim, Merck EVP and president of Merck Research Laboratories, is confident that the combined pipeline will be a great success in the industry.

“The talent and dedication of Schering-Plough scientists has helped to build an outstanding clinical development pipeline,” Kim said. “Schering-Plough’s considerable biologics expertise will complement Merck’s novel proprietary biologics platform and aligns with our commitment to build a powerful biologics presence. The Schering-Plough and Merck pipelines are remarkably complementary and will greatly increase our ability to deliver important new medicines to patients.”

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Survey shows that teens understand risks of intentionally abusing OTC meds

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON According to the 20th annual Partnership Attitude Tracking Survey, a national study of teen behavior and attitudes about drugs and alcohol, an increased number of teens view the intentional abuse of OTC cough medicines as risky, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America stated last week.

PATS indicates that 48% of teens now understand this abuse is dangerous, up significantly from 45% in 2007.

“We welcome this new data as a signal that the efforts of the leading makers of over-the-counter cough medicines in past years is making a difference,” said Linda Suydam, president, Consumer Healthcare Products Association. “Our member companies are steadfast in their commitment to prevent teen cough medicine abuse. But, we know that our work is far from over.” Suydam said. “With the help of such partners as the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, and D.A.R.E. America, we will continue our efforts to make sure all parents are aware of this substance abuse behavior and talk with their children about it.”

Lifetime abuse rates among teens for OTC cough medicines has not increased from previous PATS data and has remained relatively flat over the past few years: 10%, or roughly 2.4 million teens, report ever having abused an OTC cough medicine to get high. Federal research released in December 2008 shows a slight overall decrease in annual OTC abuse rates among teens.

“More teens seeing the abuse of cough medicine as dangerous is a very positive indication,” said Steve Pasierb, president, CEO, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. “The study shows that 37% of teens reported learning a lot about the risks of drug abuse from their parents — a significant 16% increase from the previous year.”

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Dextromethorphan Distribution Act reintroduced

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON U.S. Reps. Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Rick Larsen, D-Wash. earlier this week re-introduced legislation, the Dextromethorphan Distribution Act, that would restrict the distribution of raw dextromethorphan, a cough cold ingredient that has been the focus of teen drug abuse in the past, to entities registered with the Food and Drug Administration.

The legislation ensures that only legitimate entities registered with FDA or a state agency such as scientists, researchers or manufacturers, can purchase raw, unfinished dextromethorphan, the most dangerous form of the ingredient when abused. Currently, there are no national sales or purchase restrictions for dextromethorphan in this form.

This is the third time this legislation, which enjoys support from such industry associations as the Consumer Healthcare Products Association and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, has been introduced in the U.S. Congress.

It has passed the U.S. House of Representatives twice, but failed to move forward before the close of both the 109th and 110th Congresses.

“We fervently hope that the third time’s the charm for this important measure to get passed into law and start protecting our nation’s children,” said Linda Suydam, CHPA president. “CHPA’s support for this legislation is one part of a comprehensive approach to preventing the abuse of dextromethorphan in any form.”

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