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.
Women still aren't paid as much as men for the same job. Turns out they aren't prescribed the right drugs as often, either--unless you're talking about psychiatric drugs. In that case, women get more scripts than men do.
The FDA's cautionary word on statin use has stirred up a back-and-forth risk-benefits debate. When the agency announced last week that it would highlight the risk of Type 2 diabetes on the cholesterol drugs' labels, some prominent heart doctors issued their own warnings: Don't worry too much about that risk. For most patients, the heart benefits of statins outweigh the "small" risk of developing diabetes.
Big-selling cholesterol drugs got new warnings on their labels, but the cautionary language about blood sugar and memory loss isn't expected to diminish their popularity much.