In February and again in May, Merck sent a cease-and-desist order to Alberto Donzelli, head of education, appropriateness, and evidence-based medicine at Milan's public health authority. Donzelli had openly criticized Merck's cholesterol-lowering drug Ezetrol (ezetimibe), which is sold in the U.S. as Zetia. Now the company is doing an about-face.
New statin-use guidelines divided cardiologists when they were rolled out in November, because they would put millions more patients in line for the drugs. Now, new research estimating their impact puts the number of eligible statin patients even higher than some originally thought.
So is Lipitor or Crestor causing you to have muscle aches? The answer is no, according to a new meta-analysis of the side effects of the cholesterol-lowering drugs.
New rules for prescribing statin drugs could double the number of people taking them--or not. They could help AstraZeneca pump up sales of its high-powered Crestor--or not. What they will do--most likely--is undercut Merck's cholesterol drugs Vytorin and Zetia, along with AbbVie's fenofibrate-based lipid meds TriCor and Trilipix.
No question, statins are the big gorilla of the cholesterol-fighting drug market. And as Forbes reports today, that drug class is marking out an even bigger territory as time goes by. Over the past 5 years, statin prescriptions have grown by 17% to 214 million a year, while other cholesterol remedies lost 28% of their scripts. Now, those other drugs only account for 50 million prescriptions a year.
The Vytorin outcomes trial will go on. That's all the information we're getting out of the enormous Improve-It study for now. An independent data monitoring board looked at the trial's results so far and recommended that it continue.
For years now, statins, the cholesterol-lowering drugs, have been a major pillar of the drug industry. But a little cloud is forming over the category. Links to muscle injury were already documented, and now there is a growing body of evidence tying their use to the development of diabetes.
Could biomarkers tailor the use of pain drugs? Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania hope to determine whether common painkillers such as Celebrex and Aleve can be used more effectively by identifying patients most likely to benefit--and least likely to suffer serious side effects.
The FDA would free up some treatments for chronic conditions, such as asthma and diabetes, so patients could obtain them without a prescription.
The Vytorin outcomes study is going ahead without a hint about how things are faring. The safety monitors of Improve-It, which is testing Merck's ($MRK) cholesterol-fighting drug Vytorin, say no new dangers have cropped up among the 18,000 patients enrolled.