New Haven Says Anti-Cholesterol Drugs Don’t Work

October 16, 2008 05:42 PM
by Isabel Cowles
The city of New Haven, Conn., is suing Merck and Schering-Plough over tax dollars spent on Vytorin and Zetia.

New Haven Wants Its Money Back

New Haven, Conn. is seeking a lawsuit against drug companies Merck and Schering-Plough for selling drugs that it claims are ineffective.

The city spent about $400,000 for people covered by the city employees’ health care plan to take anti-cholesterol drugs Vytorin and Zetia. But John Ward, Corporation Counsel of New Haven, wants to recover the money, alleging that the drug “doesn’t work.”

In 2007, Vytorin and Zetia became top sellers, generating $5 billion in sales based on their claim to offer more protection against heart attacks than generic statin drugs.

But a study conducted in early 2008, called the Enhance trial, concluded that the active ingredient in Vytorin was not more effective at clearing artery plaque than its generic counterpart.

To clarify the findings of the study, USA Today spoke with Steven Nissen, the Cleveland Clinic's chief of cardiology, and Roger Blumenthal of the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease. The doctors explained that, although Vytorin and Zetia are among the most popular drugs on the market, “their manufacturers acknowledge that they’ve never been shown to prevent heart attacks or other life-threatening events. Lipitor and other statin drugs, in contrast, have demonstrated their effectiveness in many studies.”

In an interview after the findings were published, Mr. Nissen asserted, “This drug [Vytorin] doesn’t work. Period. It just doesn’t work.”

According to the New Haven Independent, Schering-Plough spokeswoman Rosemarie Yancosek said, “Schering-Plough stands behind our products, and we will defend ourselves vigorously.” The controversy surrounding the drugs has prompted more than 50 class-action lawsuits. On Sept. 26, Ward joined the fray, issuing a Request For Proposals seeking “Legal Services to Recover Excessive Payments of Pharmaceuticals.”

Background: Vytorin and Zetia fail clinical trial

The American College of Cardiology (ACC) published a response to the findings of the Enhance trial. According to the ACC, “Media reports indicate that the results of the trial show no benefit from the combination of ezetimibe (Zetia) and simvastatin (sold together as Vytorin) over simvastatin alone.”

Related Topic: Vytorin linked to cancer risk

Reference: New Haven’s request for proposal


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