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High cholesterol? New study looks at Vytorin

Monday, Jan. 14, 2008

New Study Raises Questions About Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs

Vytorin is no better than generic simvastatin, a Consumer Reports Best Buy

(Washington, D.C.) – A new study showing that the heavily advertised cholesterol drug Vytorin doesn’t work any better than a newly available generic drug in slowing artery-clogging calls into question who should be taking the most potent cholesterol drugs.
“This study gives us another important piece of the puzzle in the treatment of high cholesterol and heart disease risk,” said Steven Findlay, managing editor of Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs, a public information and education project of Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports. “While the results are not conclusive, they should compel doctors and patients to ask just who should be taking the strongest cholesterol lowering drugs.”
The most potent statin drugs, such as Vytorin, Lipitor and Crestor, are brand-name drugs that are more expensive than the three generic statins now available (lovastatin, pravastatin, and simvastatin).
“We already know that millions of people who take these brand drugs probably don’t need to; they could be taking a less expensive generic instead. This study lends support to that cost-saving strategy – for the health system and for consumers,” Findlay added.
The study, sponsored by Merck & Co. and Schering-Plough Corp., partners on Vytorin, compared the highest dose of Vytorin with the highest dose of generic simvastatin in treating patients who have a genetic predisposition to very high cholesterol levels. It found no statistically significant difference in the thickening of the walls of the carotid artery between the two. This measure is considered a signal of the drugs’ clinical effects on reducing or preventing artery blockage.
Vytorin reduced cholesterol more than simvastatin alone – 58 percent to 41 percent, the study found. Vytorin is a combination of the drug Zetia (ezetimibe) and simvastatin, sold as Zocor before it became available as a generic in July 2006.
“If there is no apparent clinical benefit, why take a drug that cost three or four times more?” Findlay said. “Most people do not need that magnitude of cholesterol reduction anyway.”
The Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs report on the statin drugs is available for free at http://www.CRBestBuyDrugs.org. It compares the statin drugs and discusses the criteria that consumers, together with their doctors, can use to choose among them.