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Vytorin Makers Announce Second Settlement

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Merck and Schering-Plough will pay $41.5 million to settle class-action lawsuits involving Vytorin and its sister-drug, Zetia.  This marks the second Vytorin settelment the companies have announced this summer.

In July, we reported that Merck and Schering-Plough had agreed to pay  $5.4 million to 35 states and the District of Columbia to settle allegations they delayed the release of negative information from the notorious ENHANCE trial.  The attorneys general from the states involved in the settlement had alleged that before the drug makers released any of the negative study results, both Merck and Schering-Plough conducted intense marketing of Vytorin through direct-to-consumer advertising.

According to Reuters, the $41.5 million settlement will resolve all the class-action lawsuits that seek economic damages related to the purchase of the Vytorin and Zetia.  About 145 such suits are pending, Reuters said. Neither settlement announced this summer requires the companies to admit any wrongdoing or liability.

Despite the settlements, Merck and Schering-Plough’s Vytorin troubles are far from over.  According to The Wall Street Journal, the companies still face a U.S. Department of Justice investigation,  as well as lawsuits alleging securities-law violations. The Justice Department is  investigating whether the companies’ promotion of Vytorin caused false claims to be submitted to federal health-care programs, the Journal said.

Vytorin is a combination of Zetia and the statin Zocor.  It has  been under the microscope since the ENHANCE study  was released in January 2008. ENHANCE found that  the drug was no better than a cheaper, generic statin in preventing clogged arteries, and raised serious questions about the effectiveness of both Vytorin and Zetia. What’s more, Merck and Schering-Plough delayed releasing ENHANCE for more than a year, even though the trial was actually completed in 2006.

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