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Merck settles patent dispute on cholesterol drug

Merck & Co. said Monday it settled a patent dispute with Glenmark Pharmaceuticals on the cholesterol drug Zetia, one of its best-selling products.

The lawsuit had been scheduled to go to trial Wednesday. Under the terms of the settlement, Glenmark can start selling its generic version of Zetia on Dec. 12, 2016. The patent would have expired on April 25, 2017, Merck said.

Par Pharmaceutical Co., which is Glenmark's partner on the generic, said annual U.S. sales of Zetia are about $1.4 billion.

Zetia, or ezetimibe, was launched in the U.S. in 2002. In addition to being one of Merck's biggest sellers, Zetia is one of the two components of a newer cholesterol drug, Vytorin. The other component of Vytorin is Zocor, which is already available as a generic.

Glenmark received Food and Drug Administration approval for its generic in April. On May 3, it licensed its generic to Par, which will market and distribute the generic. Par and Glenmark will share profits.

Merck shares rose 76 cents, or 2.3 percent, to close at $34.25 amid a broad market rally Monday, but gave up 14 cents in extended trading. Par Pharmaceutical shares edged up 36 cents to close at $27.04.