Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Pharmaceuticals of the Day

While Zetia lowers cholesterol by 15 percent to 20 percent in most patients, no trial has ever shown that it can reduce heart attacks and strokes — or even that it reduces the growth of the fatty plaques in arteries that can cause heart problems.

This trial was designed to show that Zetia could reduce the growth of those plaques. Instead, the plaques actually grew almost twice as fast in patients taking Zetia along with Zocor than in those taking Zocor alone.

—Alex Berenson reporting in "Drug Has No Benefit in Trial, Makers Say"

The anticholesterol drugs Zetia (generic name "ezetimibe") and Zocor (simvastatin) were combined into an "enhanced" product Vytorin for a cost to users of about $3 per day. Vytorin is jointly marketed by Merck and Schering-Plough.

The drug study begun in 2004 ended in April 2006, but the results were not released until yesterday, and then only under pressure from the media. "Complexity of the data analysis" was the official explanation. But you are free to conclude otherwise. Schering-Plough depends on Zetia and Vytorin for 70% of its revenues according to business analysts. Merck is still cleaning up the mess from its lethal Vioxx medication.1 Stock in both companies fell immediately. Oh my.

Just think. If we didn't have these obscene drug prices, companies like Merck and Schering-Plough would have no incentive to produce new drugs.

Related post
A ceiling as well as a floor (7/25/04)



1Today is the last day to join the class-action agreement on the payout from Merck, which has kindly set aside $4 billion for heart-attack victims and $850 million for stroke victims.

Here are the rules:

Plaintiffs must prove they actually had a heart attack or stroke, that they took at least 30 Vioxx pills and that they took the medicine within 14 days of their injury. If they pass those three tests, they will enter either the heart attack pool or the stroke fund for further evaluation.

As a compromise by Merck, the settlement doesn't require plaintiffs to show that Vioxx caused their injury. During the trials, the company always contested the issue of causation.

Another plaintiff's lawyer who helped negotiate the deal, Ed Blizzard of Houston, said more than 33,000 people had registered electronically with Brown Greer through yesterday. He said he expects most of the 60,800 eligible to register by tomorrow.

Be sure not to miss today's deadline if you're still alive. [back]

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