Analyst: Word is Niaspan beat Vytorin

Apparently word on the street is confirming initial suspicions that Abbott Laboratories' Niaspan outperformed the Merck/Schering-Plough med Zetia in a study that was abruptly called to a halt last month. "It is nearly uniform thinking among the industry contacts we know that Niaspan likely beat Zetia," Tim Anderson of Sanford Bernstein wrote in a note to investors (as quoted by the Wall Street Journal Health Blog).

Now, we won't know for sure about the outcome of that study--known as Arbiter 6--until the data is presented at the American Heart Association confab in November. The drugmakers themselves say they don't know; a Merck spokesman told the Health Blog that "the results are not available to us nor are they in the public domain. Likewise, Abbott says it hasn't seen the results; no comment, however, on whether the researchers gave a thumbs up or down.

If Niaspan did indeed beat out Zetia, that would be another blow to the Merck/Schering drug and its sister product, Vytorin, which combines Zetia with the statin med Zocor (simvastatin). Scrips of both drugs have fallen since last year's late debut of the Enhance study results--which showed Vytorin to be no better than Zocor alone at dealing with artery-narrowing--and some safety concerns that cropped up in the Seas study. Recently, Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin did a review of the outcomes data and concluded that doctors should stick to plain old statins for cholesterol-lowering and resort to adding Zetia only if absolutely necessary.

- see the Health Blog post
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