Bradley Sheares Resigns from Merck

Analysts say Vioxx lawsuits may have led to management shake-up

Merck & Co. Inc., the drug manufacturer at the center of more than 11,000 multimillion-dollar lawsuits involving the drug Vioxx, announced the resignation of Bradley T. Sheares in July as president of the U.S. Human Health Division. Sheares was the highest-ranking black executive at the company and one of the few visible African Americans in the pharmaceutical industry.

Sheares, 49, had worked at the company for nearly 20 years in various positions before being named president of the Human Health Division in 2001. He was responsible for the domestic sales and marketing of Merck’s vast portfolio of medicines. Sheares, one of BE’s Top 75 Blacks in Corporate America, was unreachable for comment.

Officials at Merck lauded Sheares’ outstanding contributions to the company. “Brad has been instrumental in initiating and leading a process of change within the [division] and a commercialization strategy for the future,” says Raymond Kerins, executive director of public affairs for the Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based drug maker. Adam Schechter is the new president of the division.

Kerins also says allegations by some industry insiders that Sheares was forced out in the wake of the Vioxx lawsuits are “completely false.” The once-popular arthritis drug has been linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes in a number of patients.

Some Wall Street analysts picked Sheares as the front-runner to replace former Merck CEO Raymond Gilmartin, who was set to retire this year. But when Gilmartin left a year earlier than expected as part of the fallout from the Vioxx lawsuits and criticism from investors, current CEO Richard Clark replaced him. Other insiders speculate that it was this snub, in part, that led to Sheares’ exit.

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