Merck settles investor suits on cholesterol drugs

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. (AP) - Merck & Co. has agreed to pay $688 million to settle two lawsuits brought by investors who alleged the drugmaker delayed releasing bad news on its blockbuster cholesterol drugs to prevent a drop in sales.

Merck and then-partner Schering-Plough, which it later acquired, had repeatedly delayed disclosing results of a study called ENHANCE on the effectiveness of its pills Vytorin and Zetia.

When Merck in early 2008 finally released study results showing the pricey drugs didn't work better than an inexpensive generic pill, Merck stock tumbled, causing big losses for investors.

Merck, which is based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., says it agreed to the settlement because it's in the best interest of the company and current shareholders. It admits no wrongdoing.

The agreement must be approved by a court.

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