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WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. (AP) _ Merck & Co. posted a 3 percent decline in third-quarter profit, as sharply higher costs for materials and production, as well as more research and development spending, offset solidly higher sales.

The maker of the cholesterol drug Zocor and Pepcid for ulcers said Friday that third-quarter net income totaled $1.88 million, or 83 cents per share, down from $1.95 billion, or 84 cents a share, a year earlier,

The latest results matched the consensus forecast of analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

Revenues were up 8 percent to $12.89 billion from $11.92 billion a year earlier.

The company said it expects earnings per share this year to be $3.14 a share, the same level as last year, and anticipates double-digit EPS growth in its core pharmaceutical business next year.

For the first nine months of the year, net income also dipped 3 percent, to $5.26 billion, or $2.31 per share, from $5.42 billion, or $2.33 a share, in 2001. Revenue rose nearly 8 percent, to $37.8 billion from $35.2 billion.

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On the Net: http://www.merck.com