Nothing is beyond consideration, it seems. In a series of hastily arranged interviews to do as much damage control as possible, Schering-Plough execs are scrambling. And so Fred Hassan, Schering-Plough's ceo, tellsThe Wall Street Journal that he doesn't have immediate plans for big changes, but "we will take tough actions if tough actions are needed...If revenues are going to be permanently impaired, then we would need to size the company to line up with that size." In other words, more layoffs.
And Deepak Khanna, general manager of the Merck/Schering-Plough joint venture that markets Vytorin and Zetia, told CNBC that a letter is going out to docs to explain their view of the Enhance study, which was skewered by Yale University's Harlan Krumholz in a panel at the American College of Cardiology conference on Sunday. He flatly suggested Vytorin should no longer be considered first or second-line therapy, helping to send Schering-Plough shares down 26 percent and Merck shares down 15 percent.
"We're very disappointed we didn't have the appropriate scientific debate or discussion at ACC," Khanna complained to CNBC, adding that the drugmaker will also lobby managed care and pharmacy benefit managers to maintain Vytorin's formulary status. "Our sales force and medical-affairs group have been well prepared about what this study is and how to talk about it. We're going to be very transparent and make sure physicians have all the information they need to understand that lowering LDL is an important goal." Here's the video.
The irony is that Khanna emphasizes the word transparent. That's the last description many would use to describe the way Schering-Plough and Merck handled the Enhance study of Vytorin - they delayed releasing the study for nearly two years; never appointed an independent board; briefly changed the primary endpoint without consulting the primary investigator, John Kastelein; and some Schering-Plough execs sold huge amounts of stock. Congress, as you may recall, is now conducting an investigation in search of - transparency. Of all things.