The good news: Schering-Plough (NYSE:SGP) officially put a sorry 2003 in the rearview mirror this morning with its fourth-quarter earnings announcement. The bad news: 2004 is likely to be worse -- a year of "repair and cleanup" according to CEO Fred Hassan.

The troubled drug maker recorded a loss of $0.12 per share in the quarter, compared to a $0.21 profit in the same period last year. Revenue -- including a 6% boost due to a weak dollar -- fell 18% to $1.9 billion. Besides declining sales, special charges related to a voluntary retirement program contributed to the loss. Excluding those charges, the company earned a penny per share.

Revenue also dropped 18% for the full year, and earnings fell from a profit of $1.34 per share in 2002 to a loss of $0.06. Though he declined to give specific numbers, Hassan says he expects earnings for 2004 to be even lower.

After reaching about $60 in late 2000, Schering's shares have steadily declined and now reside below $18. Hassan was brought in last April after turning around rival Pharmacia, which was sold to Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) for $60 billion in 2002. Once aboard, Hassan says, "We found deep, long-term systemic problems... even more challenging than anyone had identified up to that time." Besides the impact of the allergy drug Claritin losing its patent, there were regulatory and legal issues dogging the company, including a record $500 million fine as part of a consent agreement reached with the Food and Drug Administration in 2002 over unsafe manufacturing practices.

Hassan, however, believes 2005 is the turnaround year. The natural question to ask, then, is how much of an opportunity the stock represents today. If all the bad news is factored in, is this company worth consideration?

A couple of Fool contributors are urging caution. Paul Jaber believes the stock's near fair value as it is, and that investors need a larger margin of safety. Likewise, Zeke Ashton thinks it's too early to jump on the bandwagon. Both columns are must-reads for those interested in this fallen pharmaceutical giant.