"The new boss wanted to organize the department differently, so I decided it was not in my best interest to stay," Kelmar tells the paper (which owns Pharmalot). "I had been brought in to do one thing, and he decided he wanted to do it differently." Kuhlik, who became general counsel in August, had informed his staff he wanted someone to lead communications and someone else to focus specifically on policy, generally a euphemism for lobbying.
This is the second time in about 18 months that Merck has changed top public relations people. Kelmar's predecessor, Joan Wainwright, left last year after struggling through the Vioxx fallout and now works at Tyco Electronics.
Kelmar, 53, led public affairs and communications at Novartis and Medtronics before arriving at Merck, and was also assistant secretary at the US Department of Health and Human Services, among other things. He steered the drugmaker through its recent upswing, which included the Vioxx settlement and renewed enthusiasm on Wall Street, but also grappled with the controversy over Gardasil lobbying. No word yet on who will take the lead on policy, or communications. For his part, Kelmar plans to take his time deciding on his next move. "I'm not going to do anything too hastily," he says.