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Cardiome To Slash Workforce by 85% on End of Merck's Oral Development Program

By Chelsea Stevenson Cardiome Pharma Corp. (CRME) plans to reduce its workforce by about 85% in response to the termination of Merck & Co.'s (MRK) developing vernakalant oral program. All positions focused on internal research and certain supporting functions will be eliminated, Canadian-based Cardiome Pharma said. The reductions will result in up to $5 million in severance charges over the remainder of the year. In March, Cardiome's partner Merck discontinued its development of its oral vernakalant drug, which prevented atrial fibrillation. Cardiome had said it was disappointed with Merck's decision. Interim Chief Executive Dr. William Hunter said the board regrets the effects of the decision. Dr. Hunter replaced former Chief Executive Doug Janzen, who left the company last week. Cardiome Pharma reported a slightly narrower loss for its first quarter, citing clinical development efforts and pre-clinical research project expenditures. The latest quarter's loss also includes employee termination charges. The company said it will issue a further progress report in mid-August to its shareholders. Shares were off 2.3% to 43 cents in recent trading and have dropped 84% this year. Write to Chelsea Stevenson at chelsea.stevenson@dowjones.com

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