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Merck cancels Zontivity, 148 jobs in latest North Wales cuts

Heart therapy won't be promoted in US, but Merck isn't saying it doesn't work

Merck, the New Jersey-based drugmaker, says it will end 148 sales and management jobs at its North Wales, Montgomery County plant by Sept. 10 as it stops offering Zontivity, a blood circulation medicine.  See the company's brief state WARN layoff notice here.

Merck is cutting the workers, some of whom are based in the field and are not regularly in the office, after making "the business decision to cease promotion of Zontivity (vorapaxar) in the U.S., effective September 2, 2016," spokeswoman Lainie Keller said in an e-mail.

Merck isn't saying the stuff doesn't work or isn't safe, Keller added.

Earlier this summer, Merck told workers it was shifting around 300 jobs from North Wales and two sites in North Jersey, as it concentrates biomedical jobs in Cambridge, Mass., where that state is giving money to biotech companies in hopes of increasing local employment in the college (MIT, Harvard) and former factory town.

Keller said the latest North Wales cuts are "separate and distinct" from the cuts local workers were told about earlier this summer, which target Merck Research Laboratories' pre-clinical and early development area in "emerging external science and technology."

While cutting research jobs in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Merck is "increasing our investment in exploratory biology in areas where biomedical research is converging, specifically in Cambridge, Mass. and the San Francisco Bay area," Keller added.

"Unfortunately, those changes will result in workforce reductions at our Kenilworth and Rahway, N.J. sites and our North Wales, Pa. screening facility as we shift resources and personnel."

Some Merck staff will be put on the street, while others will get a chance to leave town and move across the country if they want to keep working for Merck.

Merck has previously cut jobs in a series of layoffs in Montgomery County, but the company's public relations office still says it employs around 12,500 in the area, about the same as in previous years.