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Very bad news today for Merck (NYSE:MRK) (and the Schering-Plough people therein). Their thrombin inhibitor vorapaxar (formerly SCH 530348) has run into trouble.

A review board monitoring the compound's clinical trials has suddenly halted two of them. All we know at the moment is that the drug is "not appropriate for stroke patients," and it's also being pulled from a study in people who have had mild heart attacks. The best guess, as with any drug in the clotting field, is that it may be causing bleeding instead, but we'll have to see. Problem is, those are two of the more important patient populations that a company would be targeting, and if there's trouble in those groups, then it could be waiting to show up in others as well.

Vorapaxar has an unusual history at Schering-Plough (I wrote about it here, with some personal experiences from my own time at the company thrown in). I'm very sorry to see this news - sorry for the patients involved (and those who won't be helped later on), for the researchers involved (several of whom I've worked with in the past), and for Merck's investors, who are taking about a 6% trim today on the NYSE.

This compound wasn't the whole reason for Merck to buy Schering-Plough, but it wasn't a small part of the deal, either. That other stuff had better work out ...

Source: Trouble With Thrombin Inhibitor Takes a Toll on Merck Shares