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Merck Gets Good News From Vytorin Study

From Associated Press (November 20, 2010)

DENVER -- Drug maker Merck & Co. said on Saturday that a new study shows that its cholesterol drug Vytorin helps reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and the need for heart surgeries in some chronic kidney patients by 16 percent.

The Oxford University study looked at more than 9,000 patients who had advanced or end-stage chronic kidney disease. Merck said that based on the results, which were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Nephrology in Denver, it will seek approval to use the drug for patients with chronic kidney disease.

Merck, based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., said the result is significant because kidney patients have a high risk of vascular disease. It also helps Merck, because the company has been dealing with increased competition.

Vytorin combines Zocor and a different type of cholesterol pill, Zetia. There has been controversy about whether Vytorin is beneficial in some uses compared with other drugs. Research funded by Merck has shown Vytorin reduces levels of bad cholesterol more than just Zocor alone, but studies about reducing the risk of heart attack have been less conclusive.

IMPROVE-IT, an 18,000-patient study expected to wrap up in 2013, should answer that question.

The cholesterol drug category is very competitive, with sales exceeding $30 billion a year.


Posted: November 2010