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Merck shares plunge on heart drug news Add to ...

Cardiome Pharma Corp. said its partner Merck & Co. pulled out from the development of their oral drug to treat irregular heart rhythm, sending its shares down to their life low.

The company’s shares were down 47 per cent at $1.02 on Monday on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The stock was the biggest percentage loser on the exchange.

Canada’s Cardiome, which develops drugs for diseases of the heart and circulatory system, and Merck were developing vernakalant, an oral drug to treat chronic atrial fibrillation – a heart rhythm disorder that can lead to stroke and heart failure.

Merck, which cited regulatory environment and the expected development timeline for the pull out, will, however, continue to support the intravenous formulation of vernakalant, which is marketed in the European Union and Latin America under the trade name Brinavess.

In 2010, Merck had postponed a late-stage trial of the heart drug, but gave no reason.

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