Issue Date: November 23, 2009
Merck Cholesterol Drug Takes A Hit
Merck & Co.’s blockbuster cholesterol pill Zetia is less effective than an older, generic drug, according to a small clinical study. The trial showed that Niaspan, a B-complex vitamin sold by Abbott Laboratories, is significantly better than Zetia at reducing the thickness of artery walls in people with heart disease. Merck has criticized the design of the study, which had just 208 patients and focused on a population with well-controlled LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol. Skyrocketing sales of Zetia and Vytorin, a pill that combines the active ingredients of Zetia and Zocor, helped turn Merck around in the years following the withdrawal of Vioxx. Leerink Swann analyst Seamus Fernandez says that in the worst-case scenario, sales of the Zetia/Vytorin franchise, which brought in $4.6 billion last year, could decline by 30% by 2011.
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