Mike Derer/AP

Do Vytorin’s Risks Outweigh Its Benefits?

July 22, 2008 04:56 PM
by Cara McDonough
A new study reveals more flaws with cholesterol-lowering drug Vytorin. Besides failing to improve certain cardiovascular conditions, the drug may raise the risk of cancer.

30-Second Summary

The new study showed that the cholesterol drug Vytorin, created by pharmaceutical company Merck, failed to improve a heart valve condition called aortic stenosis, which, left untreated, can lead to serious heart problems.

Perhaps more importantly, the study showed the drug may increase rates of cancer. In a study of more than 1,800 people, 93 people who took Vytorin developed cancer, compared with 65 in a control group, “a statistically significant difference,” according to Forbes.

However, some researchers were quick to say the cancer finding was most likely an anomaly. Richard Peto, a statistician at Oxford University, said the idea that Vytorin could cause cancer was “a bizarre hypothesis.”

Although the link between Vytorin and cancer remains uncertain, the study contributes to the debate over brand-name drugs versus generic, with some patients questioning whether they should pay more when the brand name drug does not meet expectations.

According to NPR, the study showed that Vytorin doesn’t reduce the need for heart valve surgery as scientists predicted it did, although it does provide some benefits, such as reducing the chances that coronary bypass surgery might be needed.

Shares of Schering-Plough, which makes the drug Zetia (Vytorin is a combination of Zetia and older drug Zocor) and Merck stock fell 11 and 6 percent respectively July 21, following the study’s release.

Headline Links: Study links Vytorin to cancer; pharmaceutical stocks fall

Related Topics: Generic vs. brand-name; FDA pushes new drug rules

Background: Study shows Vytorin no better than older drugs

Reference: Aortic valve stenosis


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