Merck buying Schering-Plough for $41.1 billion

TRENTON, N.J. — Merck & Co. is buying Schering-Plough Corp. for $41.1 billion in a deal that gives Merck key new businesses, access to a promising pipeline of new products and the chance to further cut costs, including eliminating about 16,000 jobs.

Merck hopes the cash-and-stock deal helps it better compete in a drug industry facing slumping sales, tough generic competition and intense pricing pressures.

The deal announced Monday would unite the maker of asthma drug Singulair with the maker of allergy medicine Nasonex and form the world's second-largest prescription drug maker. Merck and Schering are already partners in a pair of popular cholesterol fighters, Vytorin and Zetia, although concerns about safety and effectiveness have hurt sales.

The deal comes only a few weeks after Lipitor maker Pfizer Inc. agreed to pay $68 billion for drug maker Wyeth.

Merck spokeswoman Amy Rose told The Associated Press that company anticipates eventually having 15 percent fewer employees in the combined company — about 16,000 fewer jobs.

The deal also would let Merck do the same thing Pfizer is trying to do with its acquisition: diversifying into a more broad-based health care company.