- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) - Schering-Plough Corp., in the process of being acquired by competitor Merck & Co., said Tuesday drug sales fell in the first quarter but profit tripled because of cost cutting and a charge in last year’s quarter related to an acquisition.

The Kenilworth, N.J.-based maker of arthritis treatment Remicade and allergy spray Nasonex earned $767 million, or 46 cents per share. That compares with profit of $276 million, or 17 cents per share. Revenue fell 6 percent to $4.39 billion.

Excluding charges, mostly related to the 2007 buyout of Organon Biosciences, the company earned 56 cents per share, topping expectations. Analysts forecast profit of 47 cents per share. Analysts expected revenue of $4.56 billion.

Adjusting for an assumed 50 percent of the joint sales and sales in territories such as Japan and Latin America, Schering-Plough said its overall revenue for the quarter is about $4.9 billion.

Schering-Plough shares fell 94 cents, or 4.1 percent, to $22.11.

Meanwhile, sales in the company’s troubled cholesterol drug franchise continued losing ground, falling 21 percent. The company’s partner, Merck, records sales of the drugs Vytorin and Zetia, though Schering has additional territories outside of the joint venture.

Remicade sales rose 2 percent to $518 million, while Nasonex sales fell slightly to $306 million. The company’s other drugs include the brain tumor treatment Temodar and the hepatitis C treatment Pegintron. Overall, prescription drug sales fell 5 percent, to $3.38 billion, partly because of a decline caused by the strong dollar.

Chairman and Chief Executive Fred Hassan said the results were strong, especially “given intensifying pressure on our industry and our country,” in a conference call following the financial results.

The company said its deal with Merck remains on track and is expected to close in the fourth quarter. Merck is paying $41.1 billion in a reverse merger that will make Schering the surviving company, but keep Merck’s name.

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