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Drug Giant Merck Says it Will Lay Off 7,000 Workers

Drug maker Merck says it will lay off 7,000 of its 63,000 workers and sell or close five of its 31 manufacturing plants by the end of 2008.

The cutbacks are intended to save $4 billion for Merck, which is the third-largest drug maker in the United States.

Merck faces financial problems as the patent that protects its top-selling cholesterol drug, Zocor, expires next year. The company also faces thousands of liability lawsuits from the painkiller Vioxx, which it took off the market.

The cuts trim 11 percent of the company's workforce. Half of the cuts will affect jobs in the United States.

Some information for this report provided by Bloomberg, AP, Reuters and AFP.