(Merck CEO story updated for corporate biographic details)

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. (

TheStreet

) --

Merck

(MRK) - Get Report

named its president, Kenneth Frazier, to the additional post of CEO.

Frazier's appointment as CEO is effective Jan. 1, 2011. He succeeds Richard Clark, who has served as Merck's CEO since 2005 and will continue as chairman.

Frazier also will sit on the board of the drug giant.

Frazier rose to prominence within Merck as general counsel leading the company through the legal battle over its withdrawn painkiller Vioxx, after it was shown to cause an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Merck ultimately paid $4.85 billion to settle the Vioxx litigation, which was considered a victory for Frazier in the legal battle against an army of personal injury claims. In all,

Bloomberg

estimated that Merck has paid roughly $6 billion from the Vioxx issue, versus an initial estimate of as much as $18 billion in liabilities.

More recently, Frazier was head of global pharmaceutical sales for Merck.

Clark leaves Merck after having executed on the $41 billion acquisition of Schering-Plough in 2009.

Merck shares opened lower on Tuesday by less than 1%. Merck shares have declined by 6% this year. The company has outlined a cost reduction plan of $12.5 billion through 2012 and a 15% reduction in its work force as a result of the Schering-Plough deal.

Frazier was a corporate lawyer with Drinker, Biddle & Reath before joining Merck.

-- Written by Joseph Woelfel and Eric Rosenbaum in New York

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Joseph Woelfel

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