NJ will feel brunt of Schering ax

Fasten your seat belts, New Jersey, it's going to be a bumpy ride. Schering-Plough CEO Fred Hassan (photo) said that the budget axe will fall hardest in New Jersey as the company cuts more than $1 billion in spending. Workers in the U.S. are most vulnerable, Hassan said, particularly employees at the company's Kenilworth, NJ, headquarters.

The company announced Wednesday that it would lay off 5,500 workers--some 10 percent of its total head count--as part of a plan to trim $1.5 billion in costs by 2010. Those cuts are in response to tanking sales of Schering's top two meds, Vytorin, which it markets in partnership with Merck, and Zetia.

Those cholesterol drugs have been the subject of fierce debate since a study showed that Zetia plus the statin Zocor--packaged together in the Vytorin pill--were no better than Zocor alone at preventing artery-clogging. The debate ratcheted upward this week after leading cardiologists and a medical journal recommended the drugs be used only after older cholesterol remedies have failed.

- read the article in the Star-Ledger

ALSO: New Jersey has given more than $65 million in tax breaks to drugmakers in return for promises to create jobs, but instead the companies have announced layoffs. Report