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Merck & Co. (NYSE: MRK) and Schering-Plough Corp. (NYSE: SGP) said Wednesday they will pay $5.4 million to settle a multistate investigation about delayed test results.
The case charged the two pharmaceutical companies withheld the release of test results of two blockbuster cholesterol drugs that were reportedly unfavorable.
The companies settled with attorneys general from 35 states and the District of Columbia. They will pay back the costs of the investigation, but don't have to make other payments or admit wrongdoing or liability.
In January 2008, the companies released study data showing Vytorin and Zetia, sold by the Merck/Schering-Plough Pharmaceuticals joint venture, were not more effective than an older, much-cheaper drug at reducing plaque buildup in the blood vessels of the neck. The testing was finished in 2006 and the companies faced criticism for not releasing the results sooner.
The study compared Zetia and Vytorin to Zocor, a drug that is one of Vytorin's ingredients. Zocor is available as a low-cost generic drug. Later studies raised additional concerns about safety and effectiveness.
Merck and Schering-Plough said they will continue to comply with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) laws requiring the truthful and non-misleading marketing of their drugs. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed Merck and Schering-Plough spent $200 million to market Vytorin and Zetia to consumers in 2007.
The 35 states involved in Wednesday's settlement are Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Merck is in the process of buying Schering-Plough for $41.1 billion. At Tuesday’s close, Merck shares rose 55 cents to $27.71. Schering-Plough stock added 41 cents to $25.33.
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