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Merck Plans to Reduce US Sales Force by 1,200

Merck, whose earnings have been hurt by patent expirations and declining sales of its Vytorin cholesterol fighter, said Monday it will eliminate another 1,200 members of its U.S. sales force as part of a restructuring begun in late 2005.

Merck spokeswoman Amy Rose said the job cuts will follow the elimination of about 400 members of the drugmaker's U.S. sales force since early 2007.

"That represents a 20 percent reduction of our sales force," Rose said, referring to the combined cuts of 1,600 positions since early last year.

Merck also said the job cuts are part of its previously disclosed efforts to optimize its cost base and improve efficiency.

'With eight successful launches of Merck products approved in the U.S. since 2006 now behind us, and with an unexpected delay in a new product approval, we decided to accelerate the achievement of efficiencies we anticipate gaining as we transition to our new commercial model in the U.S,' said Kenneth Frazier, president of global human health.

The Whitehose Station, N.J.-based drugmaker said affected employees, who are located throughout the U.S., will be notified by the end of May and separations will be completed by the end of July.

--Reuters and AFX contributed to this report

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