January 15, 2008 in City

Effectiveness of Zocor and Vytorin is tossup

Associated Press The Spokesman-Review

NEWARK, N.J. – A clinical trial has shown that the combination cholesterol drug Vytorin is no more effective than a high dose of one of its components available generically, Vytorin’s makers said Monday.

Vytorin, developed by Merck & Co. and Schering-Plough Corp., is a combination of Zetia and Merck’s Zocor, which lost patent protection in 2006. Amid concerns about whether Vytorin posed a risk of liver damage, Wall Street has been anxiously awaiting details on results of the study begun in 2002.

In the quarter ended Sept. 30, sales of Zetia and Vytorin hit $1.3 billion, up 26 percent from the year-ago period.

Merck and Schering-Plough market Zetia and Vytorin jointly and split the profits. Shares of both companies fell Monday.

The study measured the amount of artery-clogging plaque in three areas.

It focused on a group of 720 patients with a rare condition predisposing them to high cholesterol. The patients were given either Vytorin or a high dose of generic Zocor, known as simvastatin.

Goldman Sachs analyst James Kelly reaffirmed a “buy” rating on Schering-Plough, calling the results a “non-event” that don’t represent Vytorin’s commercial prospects. He said the results reaffirmed the drug’s safety.

However, Banc of America Securities analyst Chris Schott reaffirmed a “neutral” rating on Schering-Plough.

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