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Pennsylvania Employee Fund Sues Over Vytorin, Zetia Claims

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A fund for current and retired Pennsylvania state employees has  filed a federal RICO suit against Merck & Co. and Schering-Plough over Vytorin and Zetia, the controversial cholesterol lowering drugs.

According to Bloomberg.com, the Pennsylvania Employees Benefit Trust Fund (PEBTF)   claims that Merck and Schering-Plough’s misleading claims about Vytorin and Zetia caused consumers to pay too much for the drugs.  The lawsuit alleges that the companies “suppressed” the results of  a study released in January 2008  for over a year, and  used false and deceptive marketing techniques claiming Vytorin was more effective than and just as safe as the much cheaper generic cholesterol  drugs.

The PEBTF lawsuit was filed  June 5 in Philadelphia federal court, Bloomberg said.   The PEBTF is seeking  to recoup more than $9 million spent on the two drugs since October 2002.

Vytorin, a combination of the statin Zocor (simvastatin) and  Zetia, has been under the microscope since the ENHANCE study, which found the drug was no better than a cheaper, generic statin in preventing clogged arteries, was released in January 2008. Merck and Schering-Plough delayed releasing ENHANCE for more than a year – the trial was actually completed in 2006.

The ENHANCE controversy spawned well over 100 lawsuits that allege Merck and Schering-Plough were fraudulent by withholding the study results for so long. Investigations into the ENHANCE debacle and the marketing of  Vytorin are also being conducted in Congress, by the U.S. Justice Department and several state attorneys general.

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