By LINDA A. JOHNSONAP Business Writer TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Drugmaker Merck & Co. on Thursday forecast lower profits and flat revenue in 2009 — far below Wall Street expectations — with management blaming the weak global economy, generic competition, slower sales of key products and restructuring charges. Merck shares slumped on the news. Merck, which six weeks ago announced its second restructuring in three years, has been struggling all year with safety concerns hurting sales of its key cholesterol drugs and a couple of other products. Next year, it will still have those problems, plus the continuing U.S. recession and slumping economies elsewhere, the possible start of generic competition to its blockbuster high blood pressure drugs Cozaar and Hyzaar, $400 million to $600 million in restructuring charges and unfavorable exchange rates hurting foreign sales. That’s after a year in which the weak dollar significantly boosted overseas sales until recovering recently. “This is a precursor of things to come, not just for Merck, but for every single pharmaceutical company,” analyst Steve Brozak of WBB Securities said, referring primarily to the foreign exchange and economic problems. He added with employers shifting more prescription drug costs onto workers, they are now seeing the true cost of medicine for the first time, which will cut sales for drugmakers. “That is going to hurt them more than anything else,” Brozak said. Executives of the Whitehouse Station, N.J., company said they expect profit of $3.15 to $3.30 per share, excluding one-time items, on sales of $23.7 billion to $24.2 billion. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected a profit of $3.52 per share and revenue of $24.59 billion in 2009. “We are in the midst of extraordinary times for the business world and the world economy,” Chief Executive Richard Clark told analysts during a conference call. “I have full confidence in the fundamentals of Merck’s business,” balance sheet, workforce and other assets. In early-afternoon trading, shares were down $1.14, or 4.3 percent, at $25.32. Merck maintained its forecasts that revenue, including income from joint ventures, will grow 2 percent to 4 percent a year from 2005 through 2010, and that earnings per share over that period will grow in the mid- to high single digits, excluding one-time items. Merck expects to end 2008 with adjusted profit of $3.28 to $3.32 per share and revenue of $23.7 billion to $24 billion. Analysts now estimate $3.29 per share and $23.9 billion in revenue. “It is slightly worse than we were anticipating,” Edward Jones analyst Linda Bannister said of the forecast, adding things are starting to get difficult for all drugmakers. Problems include the foreign exchange rates, increasing pressure from insurers and foreign governments to hold down drug prices, and consumers with higher copayments or no insurance struggling to pay for medicines, she said. “We still think they’re a safe haven” for investors, compared with other industries, Bannister said, but that could change if the Obama administration makes changes such as cutting prices for drugs bought through the Medicare program. Merck’s restructuring, announced in late October, includes 7,200 planned job cuts by 2011. Merck hopes that will save about $4 billion by 2013, but at a cost of about $1.4 billion in 2008 alone. The company expects sales of Cozaar, Hyzaar and Gardasil, its vaccine against cervical and other cancers, to be similar to 2008 levels, and slow growth for the asthma and allergy drug Singulair, which was linked this year to reports of suicides. Blockbuster osteoporosis treatment Fosamax got generic competition in February, and Cozaar and Hyzaar likely will lose patent protection in the U.S. in 2010 and in some other countries next September. Merck said its 2009 results will include better sales of the diabetes drugs Januvia and Janumet, AIDS drug Isentress and shingles vaccine Zostavax. Income from its joint ventures is forecast at about $2.35 billion, up about $500 million from 2008. That includes revenue from its partnership with Schering-Plough Corp. on the cholesterol drugs Vytorin and Zetia, which have been hurt by studies questioning their efficacy and a possible link to cancer. Merck expects lower U.S. sales of the two drugs, partly offset by growth in European sales. Clark said Merck plans next year to seek approval for new drugs for migraines and acute heart failure. AP Business Writer Marley Seaman in New York contributed to this report.