Merck to pay $688 mn to settle anti-cholesterol drug Vytorin lawsuits

US drug giant Merck & Co yesterday agreed to pay $688 million to settle two long-running lawsuits bought on by shareholders over its blockbuster anti-cholesterol drug Vytorin.

The New Jersey-based company said it had recorded a $493 million charge to cover the cost of the settlement.

Merck paid only 7.4 per cent of its 2012 profits. It made net profit of $6.66 billion on revenues of about $47 billion last year.

Merck had acquired Schering-Plough Pharmaceuticals in 2009, and prior to that, both companies worked jointly on Vytorin, a tablet that combines two drugs - Merck's Zocor and Schering's Zetia, in order to lower bad cholesterol.

In 2005, both companies started a clinical trial called Enhance, which was aimed at proving that Vytorin also decreases the thickness of the carotid artery wall resulting in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Zetia does lower bad cholesterol in the intestines, while Zocor helps block production of bad cholesterol in the liver, but the study found that it does not reduces heart diseases.