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Schering Plough Shares Sheared

What can I say? I love alliteration. But investors in the drugmaker are probably in no mood for a cute, clever turn of phrase. SGP is absolutely getting hammered this morning after coming in with third quarter earnings below expectations.

The problem, according to analysts, appears to be that sales of its cholesterol drugs Zetia and Vytorin, which it shares with Merck, were up over the same time last year, but flat sequentially--from the second quarter to the third quarter. And that has spooked investors.

The stock is leading nearly all of the American drug stocks lower on extremely heavy volume. This could be due to the intense competition from cheaper, generic Zocor which also caused sales of Pfizer's Lipitor to fall 5%.

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The fear is that Schering-Plough may be repeating history. Some analysts had been warning that the company had become overly dependent once again on a single franchise (Vytorin/Zetia)--just like it did with the old allergy drug Claritin which went generic and over-the-counter at the same time. The bottom fell out of the bottom line when that happened earlier this decade.

SGP recently bought Organon, but one was to wonder if this quarter's results and the punishing the stock is taking will force CEO Fred Hassan, a consummate dealmaker, into another major corporate marriage with a big pharma.

Dow component Merck, on the other hand, is the only U.S. drugmaker trading significantly higher today.The company beat the Street largely on the strength of its allergy/asthma drug Singulair, its new diabetes drugs Januvia and Janumet and its cadre of vaccines, including Gardasil for cervical cancer which posted more than $400 million in third-quarter sales.

Merck also raised its earnings forecast for the full year. And it put aside another $70 million to fight the Vioxx lawsuits. To be clear, that is not money for damages--it is put into a kitty to pay the lawyers. The company, which has an 11 and 5 record in the Vioxx early going, has yet to write a check to anyone for damages.

Finally, From Pharma to Football (Yes, another opportunity for a little alliteration)
I will not gloat on this blog about the Trojans' thrashing of the simply awful Notre Dame Fighting Irish over the weekend. Candidly, SC has a very, very tough game this Saturday against Oregon with National Championship and Rose Bowl implications for both teams. And I'm anxious to see the call Pete Carroll is going to make on what has quickly developed into a full-fledged quarterback controversy between Mark Sanchez and John David Booty. Fight on!

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com

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