Merck Cuts Sales Jobs And Halts Natural Products Research | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: May 7, 2008

Merck Cuts Sales Jobs And Halts Natural Products Research

High costs are behind decision to eliminate natural products research
Department: Business

Merck announced last week that it will eliminate 1,200 sales jobs in the U.S. by the end of July. The firm also confirmed a plan to halt in-house natural products research at its facility in Spain.

The job cuts follow the rejection by the Food & Drug Administration of an allergy drug combining its Singulair with Schering-Plough's Claritin, and, more recently, the rejection of its cholesterol drug Cordaptive. The cuts follow the elimination of 8,100 sales jobs in 2005.

The decision to close down in-house natural products research will impact approximately 50 researchers in Spain and "a significantly smaller number" in Rahway, N.J., according to Merck spokesman Ian R. McConnell. "There has been no decision made on what is happening to those folks," he says.

The company disclosed that it would also be closing its 50-year-old natural products drug discovery operation based in Madrid after a Merck executive inadvertently included the plan in a PowerPoint presentation to an audience that included Merck employees. "At the end of the day, synthetic chemistry has taken over," McConnell tells C&EN.

"The investment involved in finding these chemicals in the environment is significant. The products that came out of our effort have been significant as well, but that was over a 50-year period," McConnell explains. Merck's most recent drug derived from a natural product is the antifungal Cancidas, introduced in 2002. Other older natural-product-based drugs are the company's antibiotic Cefoxitin and statin Mevacor.

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