Analysts see continued Vytorin decline

Despite safety board's recommendation to continue a study comparing Merck's Vytorin versus Zocor, at least one analyst is predicting that Vytorin's sales will keeping falling with increased competition from brand and generic rivals. The news initially sent Merck's stock down Friday. But the drugmaker broke into positive territory later in the day, notes.

Bernstein Research analyst Tim Anderson gave his assessment after Merck provided an interim analysis halfway through the IMPROVE-IT trial comparing Vytorin with the cheaper Zocor. Some had feared that the study results would further harm Vytorin, but Anderson sees this as "highly unlikely." Instead, generics and cheaper brand drugs will likely eat into Vytorin sales. As BNET's Jim Edwards points out, Pfizer's mega-blockbuster Lipitor goes generic in 2011--before the Vytorin results come out in 2013.

Vytorin had been battered after a 2008 study found the drug worked no better than much lower-priced cholesterol medicines, the Star Ledger notes. Sales of Vytorin and Zetia, which formed the center of a cardiovascular drug partnership between Merck and Schering-Plough, declined. Merck now owns Schering-Plough.

The interim efficacy analysis was conducted by the data safety monitoring board after the trial had reached approximately 50 percent of the 5,250 pre-specified clinical endpoints called for in the study design. Merck remains blinded to the actual results of the interim analysis and other IMPROVE-IT data, the drugmaker says in a brief statement.

- see Merck's release
- read the BNET coverage
- see the Star Ledger story
- check out the story