Just to clarify, the study itself is not bad; rather, the results are bad for Merck & Co., which already has two studies on Vytorin and Zetia that leave negative conclusions for the drugs. These cholesterol drugs are the subject of a $41.5 million Zetia/Vytorin settlement. Sales of the drugs have sunk down about 14% since January, 2009.
The most recent trial establishes that Abbott Laboratories’ cholesterol drug Nisapan is better suited for promoting healthy cholesterol levels. This will certainly cut Merck’s profits further, as doctors realize that other drugs are better suited for their patients.
Merck is circling the wagons, however. CEO Richard Clark stated, “I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on this study.” This has been the rallying call after each of the studies was released—Merck tries to show why doctors should continue treating their patients the same as before the study, and that they should hold course until the release of data from a larger trial which will be completed in 2012 (after Merck gets 2-3 more years of profits). Merck even goes so far as to say that doctors who halt patient use of the drugs may be dangerous. Now they are sounding desperate.