Analysts predict Niaspan won mystery trial

Some enterprising stock analysts think they've solved the mystery surrounding that suddenly-stopped cholesterol drug trial. Earlier this month, researchers abruptly halted the ARBITER 6 study, which pitted Abbott Laboratories' Niaspan drug against Merck/Schering-Plough's Zetia. There's been talk and rumor since, but no definitive word on why the trial was stopped or whether either drug proved superior--and if so, which one.

Well, Seamus Fernandez and Kathryn C. Alexander at Leerick Swann took matters into their own hands. As BNet Pharma reports, they consulted a proprietary network of doctors and consultants and put two and two together, concluding that Niaspan won the day.

Here's their rationale: the researchers said they plan to publish in a top medical journal, so the trial couldn't have been halted on an error. For the same reason, the analysts believe the study produced a "definitive outcome;" why would a top journal want research that was a tie? So, if one of the drugs prevailed, it must be Niaspan, they said, based on prior data. And the "top journal" promise comes into play here, too. Data favoring Niaspan wouldn't goose the market much unless they were published in a big journal, they said.

Of course the analysts don't know for sure; their note to investors leaves a back-door out for Zetia to win. "The likelihood that Zetia outperformed Niaspan strikes us as low," they said. But if Zetia did prevail, then that could have a huge effect on the drug's sales, because even its leading critic--the cardiologist Steve Nissen--said such a result would convince him Zetia is effective.

- see the BNet post