January 17, 2008

Quack, Quack

"There have long been suspicions, but it was still very disturbing to learn this week that a heavily promoted cholesterol-lowering drug had flunked a clinical trial of its effectiveness in reducing fatty deposits in arteries. The two companies that reap billions from the drug had been cynically sitting on the results for more than a year.

The drug, Zetia, and a combination pill that contains it, Vytorin, are made by Merck and Schering-Plough and used by millions of patients. They generated more than $5 billion in sales last year. The companies sponsored a clinical trial of the drug’s effectiveness in hopes that positive results would strengthen their marketing efforts. ...

The companies’ grudging release of the data has raised disturbing questions. A House committee will explore whether they withheld the results lest they interfere with sales and only released them under pressure from Congress and news media reports.

The findings also raise doubts about the current belief that lowering cholesterol is the key to cardiovascular health. The study showed that Vytorin reduced bad cholesterol significantly more than Zocor alone. The problem was that it failed to reduce the formation of plaque.


New York Times ...

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