No, not the blockbuster partnership that covers their cholesterol-lowering drugs Vytorin and Zetia. That one's still intact -- although given the problems they've had, you could understand why one side might want a divorce in that case.
The joint venture that's getting the axe is a separate eight-year-old respiratory partnership that the companies formed to make a combination product of Schering's Claritin and Merck's Singulair. It seemed like a good move -- perhaps more so for Schering, since Singulair had $4.3 billion in sales last year -- but the FDA balked at the idea in April.
No one's said anything -- either back in April or now -- about what problem the agency had with the combo product, but it must have been pretty severe; the companies have simply abandoned the idea of getting the combo drug approved. With nothing else to work on, they ended their partnership, which triggered a $105 million payment from Merck to Schering.
The biggest beneficiaries of the breakup are probably Sanofi-Aventis
Instead, the breakup is just another black mark on the drugmakers' not-so-stellar 2008. The only good news is that the companies still have half a year to turn things around.
More Foolishness on drug partnerships: