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Merck & Co appoints new ethics and compliance officer

Michael Holston joins from Hewlett-Packard and will replace Richard Bowles

Michael Holston is to join Merck & Co as its new chief ethics and compliance officer, replacing Richard Bowles who will retire.

He will take up his new position on June 25, 2012, and moves to the pharma company from Hewlett-Packard, where as executive vice president and general counsel he oversaw compliance, government affairs, privacy, ethics operations and legal affairs.

Holston's appointment comes as Merck finally starts drawing a line under its 2004 withdrawal of the arthritis pain killer Vioxx (rofecoxib).

In November 2011 the pharma company settled US civil claims and criminal charges relating to the drug's promotion for $950m and in January this year it agreed a $36m settlement to Vioxx litigation in Canada.

Reporting directly to Merck chairman and CEO Kenneth Frazier, Holston will serve on the company's executive committee and have responsibility for “driving high ethical standards and compliance” across the entire company.

Frazier said: "We are delighted to welcome Mike as our new chief ethics and compliance officer. His extensive experience managing compliance with healthcare laws across international businesses and his background with Merck and our industry make Mike a terrific leader for our ethics and compliance organisation and a member of our executive committee.

Prior to his role with Hewlett-Packard, Holston was a partner in the litigation practice at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, where he served as external counsel to Merck on matters such as product litigation, government investigations and compliance with healthcare laws and regulations.

Before joining Morgan Lewis, he served as a prosecutor in the criminal division of the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

"I'm excited to be joining Merck at this important period of change for the company and the pharmaceutical industry," said Holston. "I look forward to working with dedicated and talented people across the company, helping to champion Merck's high ethical and compliance standards so the company can focus on what it does best – discovering and developing innovative new medicines and vaccines."

Frazier also paid tribute to Bowles, who will retire after more than 35 years with Merck and the former Schering-Plough.

"His strong leadership established the global compliance organisation for the combined new company following the merger with Schering-Plough,” Frazier said.

“He developed the right structure, capabilities and leadership for the function, creating a solid base upon which Mike can continue to build a world class ethics and compliance organisation going forward."

29th March 2012

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