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Another Poor Showing for Vytorin, Zetia

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Vytorin and Zetia aren’t looking too impressive when compared with an older, and cheaper, medication in a new study.

The benefits of both Vytorin and Zetia have been questioned before, and the drugs have been the subject of controversy since the ENHANCE study was released in January 2008. ENHANCE found that the Vytorin 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.

According to USA Today, the latest  study compared ezetimibe – the active ingredient in both Vytorin and Zetia – with prescription Niaspan, made by Abbott Laboratories.  The Abbott-sponsored study involved  363 patients who had heart disease or a high risk of heart problems. All had been taking statins and had relatively low levels of bad cholesterol. Half of the patients were given Niaspan, and half were given Zetia, USA Today said. Niaspan is a  slow-release form of niacin, a drug which has been around for 50 years.

The study  found that Niaspan reduced plaque in neck arteries by 2%,while Zetia did not. Two people in the Niaspan group had heart attacks or other major cardiac events, compared with nine in the Zetia group.

The study did have some limitations -  a small size, and the fact that it was stopped after 14 months because patients in the niacin group were doing better.

According  to USA Today, this latest study was  released Sunday at an American Heart Association meeting and published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.

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