Pharmaceutical giant Merck recorded a $1.63bn loss in the fourth quarter as charges, mainly for its Vioxx (rofecoxib) litigation settlement, hit the firm’s results.
The figures are in stark contrast to a profit of $473.9m, which the firm posted a year ago.
In all, the fourth-quarter charges were $3.4bn, which included a charge for Merck’s pending $4.85bn settlement to end the bulk of the lawsuits over Vioxx, the painkiller it withdrew from the market in September 2004 because it increased the risk of heart attack and stroke.
The firm said sales of its allergy and asthma pill Singulair (montelukast) jumped by 20% to $1.15bn, while sales of blood pressure drugs Cozaar (losartan), and Hyzaar (hydrochlorothiazide/losartan) rose 3% to $891m during the period.
Sales of osteoporosis treatment Fosamax (alendronate), which loses patent protection on 6 February, edged up just 1% to $796m.
Merck has confirmed that it has an agreement in place with another firm to produce an authorised generic version of the drug, but it has not disclosed any details about when this product will go on sale.
Meanwhile, sales of cholesterol drugs Vytorin (ezetimibe/simvastatin) and Zetia (ezetimibe) totalled $1.5bn in the fourth quarter, up 34% from a year earlier.
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