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Schering-Plough Corp. warned of a sharp fall in first-quarter earnings due to a shutdown of production lines in New Jersey and Puerto Rico.

The company said it expected a 15 percent drop in earnings for the quarter ending March 31. Schering-Plough warned that sales and earnings for all of 2001 also would be lower than expected.

Schering-Plough said in a prepared statement that the Food and Drug Administration found problems relating to "manufacturing practices" during recent inspections at plants in Union and Kenilworth, N.J., and Manati and Los Piedras in Puerto Rico.

According to the company, the FDA has said it will not approve Schering-Plough's new drug application for Clarinex, the successor to its blockbuster non-sedating allergy drug Claritin, until problems cited in inspection reports are corrected.

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