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Merck replaces head of research

NEW YORK —Merck is replacing its head of research with the retired research chief at Amgen, a leadership shake-up that follows several major setbacks.

Dr. Roger M. Perlmutter, 60, the former research head of Amgen, will replace Peter S. Kim, 55, Merck’s current head of research, who is retiring, the company said Thursday. Perlmutter starts April 15, and the two will work ­together until Kim leaves in August.

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Kim, who took over as head of research and development in 2003, is credited with overseeing the development of some of Merck’s biggest products, including the diabetes drugs Januvia and Janumet.

In February, the company’s stock fell 3 percent after Merck said it would delay seeking approval for a highly anticipated osteoporosis drug. And in December, it said a combination drug aimed at raising so-called good cholesterol levels had failed to protect against heart attacks and strokes in a large clinical trial.

‘‘There is such a thing as a blockbuster failure, and there have been a few lately,’’ said Erik Gordon, a business professor at the University of Michigan. ‘‘The analysts have been pointing at Kim, Kim, Kim.’’

Kenneth C. Frazier, Merck’s chief executive, praised Kim’s tenure.

‘‘His contributions have positioned us well for future success,’’ a statement said.

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