Merck to cut 1,200 sales reps

The axeman cometh to Merck's sales force. The drugmaker plans to lop off about 15 percent in the sales ranks, or 1,200 jobs. The fact that it's not alone in trimming back on reps--Wyeth just announced it would slash its sales force by 1,200--likely isn't much comfort to Merck's rank-and-file.

The reasons for the cuts probably aren't comforting either, though they're as obvious as the signature on a letter from the FDA. The agency just refused to approve Cordaptive, a cholesterol med Merck was hoping might grow to blockbuster status. And then there are the lingering Vytorin woes: Since the Enhance study results were first announced in January, sales have fallen off significantly, though they did manage a 1.6 percent year-over-year increase in the first quarter. Plus, the company says that it's completed the launch of eight meds and vaccines since 2006, and is scaling back the sales forces for those products. Which means, in essence, that there's a lull in new launches.

The cuts are part of an ongoing cost-control program, the company said in announcing them. But "with an unexpected delay in a new product approval," the company decided to accelerate their pace. Reps will be notified by the end of the month whether they're to stay or go.

- see Merck's release
- check out the item in the Wall Street Journal Health Blog
- read the the WSJ article

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