Monday, March 31, 2008

Cardiologists Question Continued Use of Vytorin and Zetia

This morning’s Wall Street Journal reports that a panel at the American College of Cardiology Study questioned heavy use of Vytorin and Zetia in fighting cardiovascular disease. Merck and Schering-Plough countered by saying "they believe Vytorin failed to show a benefit likely because most of the study patients had previously been treated with statins, and their arteries were healthier than expected." Here’s an excerpt of the article:

The panel's opinion, which came at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology Sunday, could prompt many physicians to switch heart patients away from significant use of the drugs, known as Vytorin and Zetia, and frustrate efforts of the drug companies to shore up sales of the medicines. Together, the perspective and the study results themselves appeared to strengthen the view that adoption of the medicines has far outpaced any evidence supporting their benefits.

"You've just seen a negative trial that should change practice, especially the way we in this country have prescribed" the drugs, Yale University cardiologist Harlan Krumholz told thousands of cardiologists. He urged doctors to go "back to statins," the class of cholesterol-lowering drugs that includes Lipitor and Zocor. Major studies have demonstrated their ability to save lives and prevent heart attacks.

If the advice is followed by cardiologists and primary care physicians, it would almost certainly spur a significant drop in sales of the drugs. The companies have been trying to revive or hold the line on already slumping sales of the pills, which climbed to a combined $5.1 billion last year.

Officials with both Merck and Schering-Plough took issue with calls to curtail their use. Enrico Veltri, a group vice president for clinical research at Schering-Plough, said Zetia and Vytorin remain an important "practical option" for helping patients to reduce LDL cholesterol, the type associated with cardiac issues.


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